Owen Rennert

Scientific Director
Division of Intramural Research
National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD)
United States of America

Biography

Dr. Rennert obtained his BA (humanities) and BS (biochemistry) from the University of Chicago in 1957 – subsequently his MD from the University of Chicago, School of Medicine in 1961. After, a year of pediatric residency (1961-62) at the university of Chicago, postdoctoral fellow in Biochemistry (1962-62), and a second year of pediatric residency at the University of Chicago (1963-64), he obtained a MS (Biochemistry) in 1963 (university of Chicago Department of Biochemistry). He was a research/Clinical Fellow (USPHS officer) at NINDS, NIH from 1964-66. Returned to the University of Chicago as Chief Resident in Pediatrics, and Assistant Professor of Pediatrics and Biochemistry (1966-68). Joined the University of Florida (1968-78) as an Associate Professor of Pediatrics, Biochemistry and Neuroscience, and head of the Institutional Division of Genetics, Endocrinology and Metabolism, and rose to the rank of Professor.  In 1968 recruited to the University of Oklahoma as Professor and Chairman of the Department of Pediatrics, and Professor of Biochemistry, and Neuroscience. Remained until 1988 when he joined Georgetown University as Professor and Chairman, Department of Pediatrics, and Professor, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and Department of Neuroscience and Anatomy. Appointed special Advisor to the Director of NICHD 1998-2000, and subsequently Scientific Director, DIR, NICHD from 2000-2009, and head of the Lab of Clinical and Developmental Genomics. In 2009 returned to full-time research and head of the Lab of Clinical and Developmental Genomics until 2012. Was then appointed as Scientist emeritus in the Division of Intramural Research of NICHD, and Professor Emeritus at Georgetown University Medical Center.

His scientific career spans more than half a century and traverses both basic and clinical research. He significantly contributed to the early development of biochemical genetics, in particular his studies on the mucopolysaccharidoses, glycogen storage diseases, and inborn errors of copper metabolism. He published a number of impactful studies on lysosomal disorders and glycogen storage diseases. His laboratory first demonstrated deranged copper metabolism in cultured skin fibroblasts derived from patients of Wilson’s disease and Menke’s disease which provided an in vitro platform for diagnosis and for the study of their pathophysiology. Subsequently his research focused on the molecular genetics of endocrine disorders, in particular disorders caused by mutations of the luteinizing hormone receptor. His laboratory identified more than 60% of all know activating mutations of this receptor and established itself as the core laboratory in the US for the diagnosis of familial male-limited precocious puberty, a disorder resulted from these mutations.

Dr. Rennert has contributed equally significantly to basic biomedical studies. He is among the pioneers of polyamine research. His earlier work established polyamines as a group of small cationic molecules that play critical roles in biological processes in health and diseases. His studies laid a solid foundation for a field, which is still being actively researched. At the NIH, his group initiated research mapping the developmental genomics of male gonads and differentiating germ cells. They established several public sequence-based databases, including that of male gonad, human male germ cells, and long non-coding RNAs. More recently his laboratory initiated investigations on the pathophysiology of autism spectrum disorders and the molecular biology of the autistic brain. His laboratory has developed induced pluripotent stem cell models to study a number of inherited disorders, including idiopathic autism.

Dr. Rennert has been recognized with many Honors, including quite recently Mentor of the Year by the NIH Graduate Program award committee. His contributions to pediatric education are enormous including chairman of the Pediatric Residency Review Board of the AMA and ABP (1982-1984) and member of the Residency Review Committee of the ABP (1989), including scores of other committees and chairmanships.