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Nationally-recognized addiction researcher joins College faculty

Dr. Robert O. Messing, a nationally recognized addiction science researcher, has joined the faculty at The University of Texas at Austin College of Pharmacy effective January 16.

He joins the college’s Division of Pharmacology & Toxicology as the Henry M. Burlage Centennial Endowed Professor in Pharmacy and assumes responsibilities as associate director for the Waggoner Center for Alcohol and Addiction Research. Messing also joins the university as vice provost for biomedical sciences. As such, he will help lead development of the new medical school.

“Robert Messing brings with him an impressive research program that focuses on the cellular and molecular basis of alcoholism,” said Dean M. Lynn Crismon. “He is an outstanding addition to our team of exemplary research faculty and we are delighted to welcome him.”

Messing will serve as one of two co-chairs for the steering committee charged with overseeing the development of the budget, curriculum, research program, clinical training program, community engagement and other aspects of the new medical school. The other co-chair will be Dr. Susan Cox, Austin’s regional dean for UT Southwestern Medical Center.

“Dr. Messing brings considerable expertise in building consensus across scientific disciplines,” said Provost and Executive Vice President Steven Leslie. “These are strengths we will need as we build synergies across our existing schools and colleges to create a medical school of the first class that addresses the health care needs of the 21st century.”

The medical school is expected to welcome its first class of approximately 50 students in 2015 or 2016. The school will operate in partnership with Travis County Central Health and Seton Healthcare Family, with medical residents receiving instruction at a new teaching hospital. The program will be the first doctoral program in medicine to be initiated at a major, established research university in the United States for several decades.

“My role will be to bring campus expertise in basic sciences and engineering into the research and educational programs of the new medical school, to provide preclinical education to the students and opportunities for pursuit of joint degrees in engineering or the basic sciences,” said Messing. “I view this as a unique and privileged opportunity to play a key role in building an academically oriented medical school at one of the nation's top universities.”

Messing comes to the university from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), where he served on the faculty for 26 years, with the past 15 years as an administrator helping to build a highly successful research institute, the Ernest Gallo Clinic and Research Center. During that time he maintained an active research laboratory at the Gallo Center focused on the neurobiology of addiction, and he contributed to patient care and medical education through the Neurology Service at the San Francisco General Hospital.

He has previously served on the UCSF Committee on Curriculum and Educational Policy and on the Clinical Courses Operating Committee, helping to revamp the third-year medical student core clerkships, while directing the university’s Neurology Core Clerkship.

The newest member of the pharmacy faculty, Messing earned a bachelor’s degree and his M.D. from Stanford University. He completed additional residencies focusing on internal medicine at the University of Virginia and at UCSF. Most recently, he served as a professor of neurology at the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine. There, he was one of numerous faculty members affiliated with the Ernest Gallo Clinic and Research Center who have research programs that focus on basic neuroscience and the effects of alcohol on the brain.

Messing’s laboratory studies molecular mechanisms that underlie addiction and co-morbid conditions such as anxiety and pain. He has focused on signal transduction pathways that involve the protein kinase C (PKC) family of serine-threonine kinases utilizing techniques including gene targeting, RNA interference, and chemical genetics with mutant kinases that utilize ATP analogs.

Last Reviewed: April 17, 2013

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