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Noted Biochemist Appointed to Molecular Therapeutics Faculty



Noted Biochemist Appointed to Molecular Therapeutics Faculty

The Scripps Research Institute has appointed Scott Hansen as an assistant professor in the Department of Molecular Therapeutics. Prior to joining the Jupiter campus faculty, Hansen was a postdoctoral fellow at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute at Harvard Medical School.

“We want to welcome Scott to the Scripps Florida faculty and to our department,” said Patrick R. Griffin, chair of the Department of Molecular Therapeutics. “His research into the mechanism of lipid control of ion channels adds an important new element to the research programs at Scripps Florida. Scott’s experience in membrane protein crystallography is also a great addition to the targets of focus here at Scripps Florida. We look forward to his continued success.”

“It’s a great honor to become a member of the Scripps Florida faculty,” said Hansen, who lives in Jupiter. “What drew me here, aside from the first-rate resources, was the fact that Scripps Florida facilitates serious biomedical research that produces real-world therapies. There are few other institutions that do that.”

Hansen, 37, received his bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Utah State University in 1999. He held positions at Abbott Laboratories and the California campus of Scripps Research, before pursuing a PhD in biochemistry from the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), winning the Martin D. Kamen Award for best doctoral thesis. Hansen pursed postdoctoral work at The Rockefeller University under Nobel Laureate Rod MacKinnon and as a fellow of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute from 2007 to 2011 before his work at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

Hansen’s research is focused on ion channels and lipids, and how they interact. Ion channels function like pores in the lipid membranes of cells, allowing ions or electrically charged atoms and molecules to flow across those membranes. They perform critical roles in the central nervous system as well as the immune system and muscle cells—the heart’s rhythmic beating is based on the opening and closing of ion channels.

Ion channel disruption has been blamed for a number of diseases including some forms of epilepsy, cardiac arrhythmias, kidney disorders, and even deafness.

In a paper published last year in the journal Nature, Hansen and colleagues were able to show how a minor component of cell membranes, the phospholipid PIP(2), controls the electrical charge of a cell and thus various ion channels.

“In the cell membrane, lipids act like triggers for ion channels,” Hansen said. “In the past, it was thought that lipids more or less just sat there—like dirt holding in a plant. People didn’t appreciate how much control lipids had over these channels until we did our study. It was the first time anyone examined how they worked together as a signal.”

The most important channels regulated by lipids are in addiction, pain, and cognition. “Those are the areas we’re going to focus on,” Hansen said.

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“What drew me here, aside from the first-rate resources, was the fact that Scripps Florida facilitates serious biomedical research that produces real-world therapies,” says Assistant Professor Scott Hansen.