Hugo Bellen is a Drosophila geneticist recognized for developing numerous genetic tools and for generating fly strains and molecular tools that have transformed Drosophila biology. Originally from Belgium, he earned a degree in Business Engineering from the Solvay School of Business at the University of Brussels, a Pre-Veterinary Medicine degree from the University of Antwerp and a Doctoral degree in Veterinary Medicine from the University of Ghent. He received his Ph.D. in genetics from the University of California, Davis working with Dr. John Kiger, and completed postdoctoral research in the laboratory of Dr. Walter Gehring at the Biozentrum in Basel, Switzerland. Bellen joined the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the Department of Molecular and Human Genetics at Baylor College of Medicine (BCM) in 1989, and he joined the Neurological Research Institute at Texas Children’s Hospital at its inception in 2011. He served as the Director of the BCM Graduate Program in Developmental Biology for more than 20 years and is truly dedicated to graduate education and postdoctoral training. He is a recipient of the George Beadle Award from the Genetics Society of America (GSA) for his outstanding contributions to the community of genetics researchers. He has been elected the 2020 Vice-President/2021 President of the GSA. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Research Interests

Hugo Bellen's group has made major contributions to our understanding of synaptic transmission, nervous system development, and mechanisms of neurodegeneration. By studying the genetic and molecular features of synaptic transmission, his laboratory has provided key insights in the mechanisms of synaptic vesicle release and endocytosis. His group has also identified novel players in the Notch signaling pathway that affect neural development. As the head of the Drosophila Gene Disruption Project, his laboratory has developed numerous sophisticated genetic tools and generated tens of thousands of reagents that have reshaped the research landscape in Drosophila.
Hugo Bellen's current research focuses on the discovery of rare new neurological disease genes and the elucidation of the pathogenic mechanisms of neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative diseases in collaboration with human geneticists. His lab is the home of the Model Organism Screening Center for the Undiagnosed Diseases Network of the National Institutes of Health. In the past few years, his group has also made major strides in solving key problems related to more common neurodegenerative diseases such as Friedreich ataxia, Alzheimer disease, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, and Parkinson disease. This research has revealed that different aspects of lipid metabolism are severely affected in these diseases and has provided inroads in therapeutic approaches that are currently being tested in mice and humans.

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Primary Section

Section 26: Genetics

Secondary Section

Section 22: Cellular and Developmental Biology