Dr. Brenner Wins the 2014 Regents Award for Faculty Excellence
Tuesday, May 20, 2014
Charles Brenner, Founding Co-director of the Obesity Research and Education Initiative and Professor and Roy J. Carver Chair of the Department of
Biochemistry, has received a 2014 Regents Award for Faculty Excellence.
The award, which is given to those faculty whose work represents “a
significant contribution to excellence in public education,” is one of
the highest honors given by the University of Iowa for faculty
Dr. Brenner has had an exceptional career, beginning with his early
academic trajectory. After graduating from Wesleyan in 1983, and working
at Chiron Corporation and DNAX Research Institute, he earned his PhD
from Stanford in 1993 for purification and characterization of the Kex2
prohormone processing protease. During his post-doctoral appointment,
which was conducted at Brandeis, he served as a Leukemia Society of
America fellow and showed that histidine triad proteins are a novel
superfamily of enzymes related to galactose-1-uridylyltransferase.
Dr. Brenner began his independent research program at Thomas
Jefferson University in 1998, where he rose to the position of associate
professor and director of the Structural Biology and Bioinformatics
Program of the Kimmel Cancer Center. In 2003, he was recruited to
Dartmouth, where he directed the Cancer Mechanisms Program of the Norris
Cotton Cancer Center. There, he also served as the Associate Director
for Basic Sciences and the Scientific Director of the Thoracic Oncology
Group at the cancer center. Dr. Brenner’s research has been funded by
the March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation, the Burroughs Wellcome
Foundation, the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation, the Lung Cancer
Research Foundation, the National Science Foundation, and the National
Institutes of Health.
Dr. Brenner’s current research is largely focused on reversible
modifications of DNA and proteins and the relationship between
metabolism, gene expression, and organismal function. He is best known
for uncovering new steps in NAD metabolism including the existence of
nicotinamide riboside as a vitamin precursor of NAD in eukaryotic cells.
This work combines basic mechanistic science with work that attempts to
translate nicotinamide riboside into a preventative and therapeutic
agent for particular diseases and conditions.
Dr. Brenner was recruited to the University of Iowa in 2009. In response to then Provost Wallace Loh’s
call for proposals to develop faculty clusters focusing on grand
challenges of the twentieth century, Dr. Brenner developed the idea to
create the Obesity Research and Education Initiative (OREI), which he
directs with Dr. Allyn Mark. The OREI, working closely with the
Fraternal Order of Eagles Diabetes Research Center, have made Iowa a
destination institution for interdisciplinary research and substantive
outreach in problems including overweight, obesity, type 2 diabetes and
its complications, human activity, behavioral economics, eating
disorders and other related problems.
In his role as professor, department chair, and research scientist,
Dr. Brenner is also responsible for the training and mentorship of
undergraduates and graduates, post-doctoral fellows, laboratory
assistants, and faculty colleagues. Brenner mentees have important
positions worldwide. Three will take faculty positions this summer,
namely Dr. Peter Belenky, who will become an assistant professor at
Brown University, Dr. Rebecca Fagan, who will become an assistant
professor at Bucknell University, and Dr. Ruth Grossmann, who will
become an assistant professor at Iowa. Many of his trainees become
expert practitioners in technologies that he helped to develop and
disseminate at the University, such as high throughput screening and
Dr. Brenner has also become nationally known in educational matters.
As a faculty member who teaches metabolism to undergraduates and who is
in touch with the changing landscape of undergraduate, medical,
graduate, and professional education in the molecular sciences, he and
Dr. Dagmar Ringe developed the premedical curricular recommendations
endorsed by the American Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.
These recommendations, which have been further developed in
peer-reviewed literature, go farther than recognizing that biochemistry
will be a required subject in the 2015 Medical College Achievement Test.
Recognizing that 500,000 new U.S. college freshmen per year enter the
premedical pipeline and 20,000 doctors are annually produced, Dr.
Brenner has advocated developing curricula that will improve the
preparation of all of the biomedically-inclined students in areas
including data analysis, genetics, biomolecule reactivity,
macromolecular structure and metabolism.
Winners of the 2014 Regents Award were announced at the Faculty
Senate meeting on April 29th. The award comes with a one-time $1000
stipend. Dr. Brenner will be presented with the award in the fall. Other
winners of the award this year were Kim Brogden, Dows Institute for
Dental Research and the Department of Periodontics; Charles Lynch,
Department of Epidemiology; John Beldon Scott, School of Art and Art
History; Larry Weber, Civil & Environmental Engineering; and Mary
Wilson, Internal Medicine.
In his nomination, Dr. Brenner was noted for his deep engagement in
research, his efforts to expand student learning opportunities, and his
aptitude for bringing together individuals from different departments in
order to establish new intercollegiate research and education