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Last modified: Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Howard J. Edenberg

Distinguished Professor, Chancellor's Professor, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and Medical and Molecular Genetics
Departments of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and of Medical and Molecular Genetics
School of Medicine
University Graduate School
Indiana University- Purdue University Indianapolis
Appointed to IU faculty, 1977
B.A., Queens College, C.U.N.Y., 1968
M.A. Stanford University, 1970
Ph.D., Stanford University, 1973

"This research has been very important to our understanding of the genetic basis for individual differences in alcohol metabolic rate and susceptibility to alcoholism and alcohol-related pathologies. Dr. Edenberg is internationally recognized as a leader in the genetics of alcoholism." --Hans Jörnvall, Professor of Physical Chemistry and Scientific Secretary of the Nobel Assembly and Committee, Karolinska Institutet

Howard J. Edenberg

Photo by Chris Meyer

Howard J. Edenberg

Print-Quality Photo

Howard J. Edenberg is one of the School of Medicine's research innovators -- his work on the genetics and genomics of complex diseases has influenced how such diseases are studied worldwide.

A majority of Edenberg's career has focused on the biochemistry, molecular biology, and genetics of alcohol metabolism and other genes that influence alcohol dependence. He conducts detailed studies of the regulation of alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) genes and how they affect risk for alcoholism, as well as genome-wide studies of gene expression to identify other genes that affect the risk for alcoholism, and he investigates how these other genes are regulated.

"Dr. Edenberg and colleagues have made fundamental contributions to understanding ADH and ALDH [aldehyde dehydrogenase]," says Enoch Gordis, former director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). He notes that Edenberg's work "will be indispensible in understanding the complex world of alcohol metabolism and how that metabolism varies among people and tissue types."

Edenberg is also known for helping shape the process of doing science -- in modern, large-scale collaborations in human genetics and genomics. He was the molecular geneticist in the group that designed COGA, the Collaborative Study on the Genetics of Alcoholism, an NIAAA-funded project that has influenced subsequent large-scale, multifaceted scientific projects meant to tease out genes that influence human behavior. He is now one of the principal investigators of COGA, which has permanently altered humanity's perception of alcoholism. Edenberg's "pioneering work on high-throughput genetic screening led to the identification of a new candidate in the GABA neurotransmitter pathway as well as an expected ADH alcohol metabolizing gene," says Susumu Higuchi, deputy director of the National Hospital Organization's Kurihama Alcoholism Center in Kanagawa, Japan.

In addition to his work on alcohol metabolism and alcohol-related health problems, Edenberg has studied other complex diseases, including bipolar disorder, hypertension, and osteoporosis, and has collaborated with other scientists on a broad range of topics in genetics and genomics. In 2000, Edenberg established the IU School of Medicine's Center for Medical Genomics, which provides genotyping and microarray services to colleagues around the state, and he has directed it since then.

His work has garnered significant, sustained support. His research project on alcohol-metabolizing enzymes is now in its twenty-fourth year of funding from the NIAAA and was granted MERIT status in 2003. In addition to his work on the COGA project, he has been a principal investigator on several other National Institutes of Health (NIH) research grants. He was one of the group that drafted the proposal to the Lilly Foundation that became the Indiana Genomics Initiative. Edenberg has authored or co-authored more than 250 academic papers and delivered lectures to colleagues around the world. In 2009, he was given the Research Society on Alcoholism's Distinguished Research Award, and he also received the Tharp Award for research on alcoholism that year.

Edenberg has served as an advisor to science agencies nationally and internationally, including chairing the National Research Council's Graduate Fellowship Evaluation Panel in Biochemistry and Biophysics (for National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowships) and serving on study sections and working groups for the NIH. He has been a member of several journal editorial boards, and an advisor to alcohol centers at other universities. He was a member of the National Advisory Council on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and serves on the NIAAA External Advisory Board.

Edenberg has also excelled as a mentor and teacher. He has taught and lectured in more than a dozen courses and seen the completion of more than 35 Ph.D. candidates' studies as a committee member or chair. In 1993, Edenberg was given the IU School of Medicine Faculty Teaching Award.