Iowa Institute of Human Genetics

Meet the Director

Smith, Richard

The Iowa Institute of Human Genetics (IIHG) is a statewide resource to promote clinical care, research, and education that focuses on the medical and scientific advances around the human genome. Established in early 2012, we seek to integrate activities in human genetics through multi-disciplinary research, education, and clinical care that is focused on the medical and scientific significance of variations in the human genome.

Richard Smith, MD, Director of the IIHG, is the Sterba Hearing Research Professor, Department of Otolaryngology- Head and Neck Surgery in the University of Iowa Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine. He is also Co-director, Iowa Center for Auditory Regeneration and Deafness, and Vice Chair, Department of Otolaryngology- Head and Neck Surgery.

Dr. Smith directs the Molecular Otolaryngology and Renal Research Laboratories (MORL). His clinical and research interests include complement-mediated renal diseases and deafness. With respect to the former, the MORL focuses on Dense Deposit Disease (DDD, also known as membranoproliferative glomerulonephritis type II, or MPGN II) and atypical Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (aHUS). In the area of deafness, the MORL focuses on both syndromic and non-syndromic types of deafness. Ongoing research involves gene discovery, functional studies and gene therapy experiments using RNA interference to rescue deafness in mouse models of hearing loss.

The Clinical Diagnostics Division (CDD) of the MORL is CLIA approved and Joint Commission accredited to provide genetic testing of numerous complement genes in patients with DDD and aHUS. The MORL has also developed OtoSCOPE, which is used by the CDD to provide the first truly comprehensive genetic testing platform for hereditary hearing loss, Usher syndrome, and Pendred syndrome. To integrate genetic data with clinical data, the MORL maintains the largest DDD patient database in the world and the largest aHUS patient database in North America. Scientists in the MORL have also developed AudioGene to provide phenomic data on patients with hereditary hearing loss.

A UI faculty member since 1990, Smith earned his medical degree at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston in 1977. He completed an internship and general surgery residency at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston, followed by an otolaryngology residency at Baylor. Smith then completed a clinical fellowship in pediatric otolaryngology at the Hospital for Sick Children in London and a research sabbatical in murine genetics at the MRC Institute of Hearing Research in Nottingham, England. He is a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies and the Association of American Physicians.