The Ohio State University recently announced the 2019 honorees of the Distinguished Scholar Award. The award, established in 1978, recognizes exceptional scholarly accomplishments by senior professors who have compiled a substantial body of research, as well as younger faculty members who have demonstrated great scholarly potential. Dr. Arthur H.M. Burghes, PhD, Professor, Department of Biological Chemistry and Pharmacology, College of Medicine, was among this year’s honorees.

Arthur Burghes is an internationally recognized medical research scientist. His nearly four decades of groundbreaking research on the molecular genetics and biochemistry of neuromuscular disorders has substantially changed the way patients are diagnosed and treated. His research on spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) has moved the field through from gene discovery to tangible changes in the diagnosis and management of SMA, prolonging survival, improving motor functions and converting debilitating muscle weakness diseases to ones that ultimately can be cured. In addition, his work in forming the international SMA researcher meeting held by Cure SMA has driven the field forward and allowed for the rapid exchange of ideas between all areas of SMA research.

The nomination from Ohio State states, “Throughout his career, Dr. Burghes has been an exemplary and tireless driving force in the SMA field. In addition to being at the forefront of SMA research, he is a leader in scientific conferences and a catalyst of scientific exchange and collaborations. He is one of the most highly recognized world authorities on molecular mechanism of SMA and related diseases.”

Another colleague added “From strategies to identify the SMA gene to developing pre-clinical tools to treat the disease, Arthur’s contributions in the area have been second to none. Indeed, there would be few who would contest the assertion that Dr. Burghes has been the single most influential person in the field of SMA biology since the early 90s.”

Dr. Burghes developed the first animal model of SMA in the mouse and demonstrated that high copy numbers of the SMN2 gene can rescue the mouse from lethality. His lab uses this animal model of SMA to understand why motor neurons are affected and to test new treatments for SMA, most notably gene therapy to replace the missing SMN1 gene. 

Burghes’ research has been published in prestigious journals including Nature, Nature Genetics, Nature Biotechnology, Nature Neuroscience, Science and in The New England Journal of Medicine. He serves on the Scientific Advisory Boards for Cure SMA, SMA Europe and Neuromics.

He received his BSc from the University of Calgary and his PhD from the University of London. He joined Ohio State in 1988.