New Chair of Molecular Pharmacology

Dr. Jonathan M. Backer Named Chair of Molecular Pharmacology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine

September 21, 2015—(BRONX, NY)—Jonathan M. Backer, M.D., an internationally acclaimed molecular pharmacologist and sought-after mentor to promising young scientists, will chair the department of molecular pharmacology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, effective September 17, 2015. Dr. Backer is professor of molecular pharmacology and biochemistry. The department’s prior co-chairs were Susan B. Horwitz, Ph.D., and Charles S. Rubin, Ph.D.

Albert Einstein College of Medicine has named Jonathan Backer, M.D., chair of molecular pharmacology
Jonathan M. Backer, M.D.
“During his more than 20 years at Einstein, Jonathan Backer has had an outstanding career as both a researcher and mentor,” said Allen Spiegel, M.D., The Marilyn and Stanley M. Katz Dean. “Jon is eminently qualified to succeed Susan and Charlie, who have given Einstein many years of outstanding service as co-chairs of the department.”

In taking over as chair of molecular pharmacology, Dr. Backer will relinquish his position as director of the Belfer Institute for Advanced Biomedical Studies, which integrates all postdoctoral training programs at Einstein. A successor has not yet been named.

Dr. Backer graduated from Harvard College in 1979. After receiving his M.D. degree from Harvard Medical School, he served as a research fellow at Boston’s Joslin Diabetes Center before becoming an instructor in medicine at Harvard. Dr. Backer joined the Einstein faculty in 1993 as an assistant professor of molecular pharmacology, was promoted to professor in 2002, and was named director of the Belfer Institute in 2008.

“During his more than 20 years at Einstein, Jonathan Backer has had an outstanding career as both a researcher and mentor.”

– Allen Spiegel, M.D., The Marilyn and Stanley M. Katz Dean

Dr. Backer’s research focuses on a group of enzymes called phosphoinositide (PI) 3-kinases. These enzymes sense when certain cell-surface receptors (including tyrosine kinase and G-protein coupled receptors) receive signals and then relay those signals into the cell. This makes the PI 3-kinases important regulators of key cellular processes such as proliferation, motility, apoptosis, vesicular trafficking and insulin signaling. Mutations that activate PI 3-kinases are linked to the genesis and spread of several types of human cancers.

Dr. Backer studies the molecular mechanisms that regulate PI 3-kinase activity and the role of PI 3-kinases in the aberrant intracellular signaling involved in diabetes, cancer and aging. As principal or co-principal investigator, he is currently supported by a National Institutes of Health (NIH) program project grant and two NIH R01 grants. Dr. Backer’s work is also supported by an Innovation Award from the American Diabetes Association and by the Department of Defense’s Prostate Cancer Research Program.

At Einstein, Dr. Backer has served on the MSTP (M.D.-Ph.D. program) steering committee and the Sue Golding Graduate admissions committee, and has chaired both the qualifying exam committee and the faculty promotion committee. He has served as course leader for Signal Transduction and Hormone Action in the graduate school since 2004. He is a member of the American Society for Cell Biology and the American Diabetes Association, has served on 17 study sections and review panels for the NIH, and is currently a regular member of the Membrane Biology and Protein Processing study section. He has served on the editorial boards of the Journal of Biological Chemistry and Biochemical Journal.

When Dr. Backer formally assumes his new post, Drs. Horwitz and Rubin will return to their laboratories to resume their research fulltime.