“Dr. Honkanen is a world-renowned educator, researcher and basic scientist,” said Dr. John V. Marymont, dean of the USA College of Medicine and vice president for medical affairs. “He has helped to draw global attention to the innovative research being done at the USA College of Medicine. Dr. Honkanen brings leadership, knowledge and expertise in his new role as department chair.”
In addition to his administrative duties as chair, Dr. Honkanen will serve as the liaison between the biochemistry and molecular biology faculty and the dean of the College of Medicine. He also plans to recruit additional faculty.
“The mission for the department is to continue to improve both graduate and medical student education,” Dr. Honkanen said. “We will also focus on the further development of a vibrant and productive research environment. This research effort will be devoted understanding the biochemical and molecular basis of biology and disease, with an emphasis on strict application of scientific methods to ensure robust experimental design, methodology and analysis, coupled with unbiased interpretation and reporting of results.”
Dr. Honkanen will continue his active externally funded research efforts. Currently, he is one of 11 top researchers from around the world chosen to take part in a research project to study PPP2R5D gene mutation in children. PPP2R5D is a gene involved with cellular growth and development throughout the human body, especially the brain and neurodevelopment. Dr. Honkanen was selected for the project due to his extensive knowledge of protein phosphates.
One of these phosphatases (PP5) was even launched into space, as part of the SpaceX Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) mission to the International Space Station. PP5 is an enzyme that acts as a phosphatase and is considered a validated target for anti-tumor drug development.
Among the research grants he has been awarded, Dr Honkanen received an NIH Directors Transformative Research Award for his project “Methods to Enable Cholesterol Catabolism in Human Monocyte Derived Macrophages.” Patents related to technology developed under this award have recently been licensed to Repair Athero, Inc, a start-up biotech company based in Texas.
Dr. Honkanen joined the USA faculty as an assistant professor in 1993. He earned his Ph.D. in microbiology from the University of Georgia in Athens, Georgia. He completed a postdoctoral research fellowship in biochemistry at the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta, Georgia, followed by postdoctoral research in molecular oncology at the Cancer Research Center of Hawaii in Honolulu.
He is a member several scientific and professional societies, including the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the International Society on Toxicology.