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2023 Alumni Awards

Distinguished Alumnus Award – Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences

Lawrence T. Reiter, Ph.D. ’97

Lawrence T. Reiter, Ph.D. serves as professor in the Department of Neurology, at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC) in Memphis, Tennessee. He maintains adjunct appointments in the departments of Anatomy & Neurobiology and Pediatrics. He received his Ph.D. in the laboratory of Professor James R. Lupski, M.D., Ph.D., from Baylor College of Medicine in 1997, where he characterized one of the earliest examples of genomic disorders, the CMT1A Duplication. During his postdoctoral work at the University of California, San Diego, he redefined the rationale for using Drosophila melanogaster as a model organism for studying human genetic disease by revealing that ~75% of all human disease related genes have significant homologues in flies (Reiter et al. 2001 PMID: 11381037). This seminal work has been cited >1,300 times and continues to be a strong justification for human disease modeling in Drosophila. Translational research investigating the molecular causes of human neurogenetic disease, using both fly and stem cell models, has been the focus of Dr. Reiter’s work since starting his laboratory in 2005.

Dr. Reiter’s focus is on the basic etiology of chromosome 15q disorders including Angelman, Prader-Willi and Duplication 15q syndrome. He uses both genetic manipulation of Drosophila and human dental pulp stem cells (DPSC) that are differentiated into neuronal cultures. He has generated a body of work that identifies the molecular targets of the UBE3A ubiquitin ligase protein in flies, producing six publications using both fly and mouse models of Angelman syndrome. He is currently funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and various foundations to identify protein substrates of UBE3A in flies. He recently completed a medium throughput screen in flies using FDA-approved compounds to identify hits that suppress seizures driven by a glial specific Dube3a over-expression model. His laboratory identified lead compounds that achieve chemical suppression of seizures in this fly model of 15q Duplication syndrome through the stimulation of 5HT1A receptors in glia, published in the prestigious journal Biological Psychiatry (Roy et al. 2020 PMID: 32507391). These findings led directly to a novel, off-label trial of Dup15q specific anti-epileptics in Italy; directly translating results from flies at the bench to the bedside. Dr. Reiter is a member of both the American Society of Human Genetics and the Genetics Society of America. He is on the editorial board for Frontiers in Genetics, where he was recognized as a top handling editor. Dr. Reiter is recognized as a top peer reviewer by Web of Science and has extensively reviewed for grant agencies including service on multiple NIH study sections.

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