Zoghbi and Hotez elected to American Academy of Arts and Sciences

Rice University trustee Dr. Huda Zoghbi and Baker Institute for Public Policy fellow Dr. Peter Hotez have been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, one of the country’s oldest learned societies and independent policy research centers. The academy honors exceptional scholars, scientists, leaders, artists and innovators and engages them in sharing knowledge and addressing challenges facing the world.

Dr. Huda Zoghbi

Huda Zoghbi

Zoghbi is a professor of pediatrics, molecular and human genetics, neurology and neuroscience and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator at Baylor College of Medicine. She also is the director of the Jan and Dan Duncan Neurological Research Institute at Texas Children’s Hospital.

The world’s leading expert on Rett syndrome, Zoghbi and her research team identified the genetic cause of the disease, which strikes after about a year of normal development and is characterized by developmental regression, social withdrawal, loss of hand use, compulsive hand-wringing, seizures and a variety of neurobehavioral symptoms.

The discovery of the Rett syndrome gene led to a diagnostic genetic test that allows early and accurate diagnosis. The research also revealed that the genetic mutations that cause Rett syndrome can cause a host of other neuropsychiatric features that range from autism to juvenile-onset schizophrenia. The research also provided evidence that an autism spectrum disorder or an intellectual disability disorder can be genetic even if it is not inherited.

Zogbhi’s discovery opened up a new area of research on the role of epigenetics in neuropsychiatric disorders. She and her collaborators also have made many discoveries toward understanding mechanisms driving adult-onset neurodegenerative disorders and are now focused on identifying potential therapeutics for these disorders.

Peter Hotez

Peter Hotez

Hotez is a professor of pediatrics and molecular virology and microbiology at Baylor College of Medicine and dean of Baylor’s National School of Tropical Medicine, which he founded in 2011. At Rice’s Baker Institute he is a fellow in disease and poverty. He is the Endowed Chair in Tropical Pediatrics at Texas Children’s Hospital, where he also is director of the Center for Vaccine Development.

The founding editor-in-chief for the open-access medical journal PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases, Hotez has been recognized for his work in research and advocacy as a world-renowned expert in neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). At Baylor he leads an international team of scientists working to develop vaccines to combat some of the world’s most common yet potentially deadly diseases, including hookworm infection, schistosomiasis, Chagas disease, leishmaniasis and SARS. These diseases affect millions of children and adults worldwide in some of the most poverty-stricken areas.

Known as the thought leader on the Zika epidemic in the Western Hemisphere and globally, Hotez was among the first to predict Zika’s emergence in the U.S. He has been called upon frequently to testify before Congress and has served on infectious disease task forces for two consecutive Texas governors. When he served as a science envoy for the U.S. Department of State, Hotez focused his work on vaccine and science diplomacy in the Middle East and North Africa.

Zoghbi and Hotez will be inducted at a ceremony in October along with the other 211 members of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences’ Class of 2018.

About B.J. Almond

B.J. Almond is senior director of news and media relations in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.