Dr. Rik Derynck is currently professor in the schools of dentistry and medicine. He also serves as co-director of the Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regeneration Medicine and Stem Cell Biology at UCSF. Dr. Derynck is a pioneer and authority in the biology and signaling mechanisms of TGF-β and the mechanisms through which TGF-β induces epithelial-mesenchymal transition and contributes to disease.
Dr. Derynk received his Dr. Sc. degree at the University of Ghent, Belgium, for the cDNA cloning and expression of fibroblast interferon (interferon-β), which provided the basis for the clinical development of this interferon by Biogen, and its clinical evaluation and use. In 1981, without an intervening postdoctoral position, he moved to Genentech, where he initiated a program aimed at the molecular characterization of the newly discovered “transforming growth factor” activity. This led to the cDNA cloning of TGF-α and TGF-β1, the prototype of the TGF-β family of growth and differentiation factors. In 1991, he moved as professor to the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF), where he continued to study the roles of TGF-β in epithelial and mesenchymal differentiation, and discovered that TGF-β induces epithelial-mesenchymal transdifferentiation. Dr. Derynk’s lab has been focusing on the characterization of TGF-β signaling mechanisms through activation of its receptors, Smads and non-Smad pathways, and the roles of the TGF-β-activated pathways in epithelial plasticity and epithelial-mesenchymal transition for the past 20 years. His research has greatly impacted our understanding of TGF-β family signaling mechanisms, with many mechanistic and conceptual advances (and reagents) originating from his lab, and has helped to provide the basis for therapeutic approaches based on inhibition of TGF-β signaling. Among other awards, Dr. Derynk has been elected as Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.