Garcia-Blanco Awarded Distinguished Professorship Honoring the Late Charles D. Watts

May 7, 2012

Durham NC — Mariano Garcia-Blanco, PhD, Professor of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology and Medicine, and Director of the Center for RNA Biology at Duke University’s School of Medicine, and Professor of Emerging Infectious Diseases at the Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School in Singapore, has been named the Charles D. Watts Professor of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology.

“Appointment to a named chair is the highest honor the university can bestow on a member of the faculty,” says Joseph Heitman, MD, PhD, James B. Duke Professor and Chair of the Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology. “Mariano has always demonstrated outstanding professional achievement and is a leader in RNA biology.”

The distinguished professorship awarded to Garcia-Blanco is named in memory of the late Charles D. Watts, a pioneering African-American surgeon who founded the Lincoln Community Health Center and died in 2004 at the age of 86 following a long illness.

As the first African-American to be certified by a surgical specialty board in North Carolina, Watts is remembered for taking care of the poor and underserved in Durham. He spent more than 50 years advocating for civil/human rights and for the quality of medical care for all residents of Durham.

Garcia-Blanco is internationally-recognized for his scientific contributions including the discovery of the alternative splicing factor PTB (polypyrimidine tract binding protein) and the demonstration of its role in regulating splice site choice, the demonstration that splice sites are paired by three-dimensional diffusion rather than scanning, the development of methods to image alternative splicing decisions in mammals in vivo, and the recent discovery of virus host factors required for yellow fever virus and dengue virus propagation in human cells and in insect cells.

Garcia-Blanco is a member of the Scientific Advisory Board for European Alternative Splicing Network of Excellence, the Council of Scientific Advisers, the International  Centre of Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, the National Advisory General Medical Sciences Council, and a Trustee of the Puerto Rico Trust for Science, Research and Technology. In 2011, he was elected to the Association of American Physicians (AAP).

Garcia-Blanco is one of 21 Duke faculty members awarded distinguished professorships this year. The recipients were recognized last week at a dinner at the Washington Duke Inn and Golf Club.