2017 Norman Hackerman Award In Chemical Research Recipient

Dr. Neal M. Alto

The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center

As an Associate Professor in the Department of Microbiology at The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, Texas, Dr. Alto’s research group notably discovered the make up of host-pathogen complexes. Host-pathogen interactions are the way microbes or viruses sustain themselves within host organisms on a molecular, cellular, organismal or population level. This important finding illuminated how pathogens attack human cells, causing disease, which has opened the door for the development of novel antimicrobials.

“Dr. Alto has emerged as an influential leader in the field of microbiology, molecular medicine and infectious diseases,” said Peter B. Dervan, Chair, The Welch Foundation Scientific Advisory Board.  “The impact of his research makes him an ideal recipient of the Hackerman Award. The breadth and depth of his work in microbial pathogenesis are exceptional.”

Alto’s studies have been featured in respected publications including Science, Nature, Cell, Molecular Cell and more. Previous awards received by Dr. Alto include the Merck Irving S. Sigal Memorial Award, the Faculty Scholar Award from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Simons Foundation, the Biomedical Collaboration Research Award from The Hartwell Foundation and he was designated an Investigator in the Pathogenesis of Infectious Disease by the Burroughs Welcome Fund.

“Following the discovery of several new classes of bacterial enzymes, it came to light that these enzymes alter the structure and function of target host proteins through never-before observed chemical modifications,” said Alto. “Importantly, this work has revealed new drug targets for the treatment of bacterial infectious diseases and has contributed more broadly to the scientific community by providing unique tools for studying basic cellular processes involved in autoinflammation and cancer.”