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A series of discoveries in metabolism related to cancer and heart disease have earned a Utah biochemist a top national research title.

The University of Utah's Jared Rutter was named Tuesday as an investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. He is one of 26 biomedical researchers nationwide to win a share of $153 million that will be distributed over the next five years.

Rutter in a prepared statement said he is "very grateful to the Howard Hughes Medical Institute for putting their trust in me to do something meaningful with this award. I am committed to make that happen."

Rutter's prior studies on fruit flies, human DNA and rodents have implications for possible therapies for colon and other cancers, potentially fatal neuromuscular disease and metabolic defects in heart disease. He studies mitochondria — cell components that are instrumental in providing fuel for all living things.

A spinoff company Rutter co-founded in 2009, BioEnergenix, is working to develop a drug to fight metabolic syndrome but will not be receiving any of the HHMI grant, a university spokesman said. Rutter hopes the therapy will go into human clinical trials in the next few years.

Rutter is co-director of the U.'s Diabetes and Metabolism Center and co-leader of the Nuclear Control of Cell Growth and Differentiation Program at the Huntsman Cancer Institute. A Utah native, he has a bachelor's degree in molecular biology from Brigham Young University and his doctorate in cell and molecular biology from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.

Rutter, one of about 900 eligible applicants nationwide, will stay at the U. to complete the research. He is the fourth U. faculty member to become an HHMI investigator, joining Nobel laureate Mario Capecchi, named in 1988; Bradley Cairns in 2000; and Erik M. Jorgensen in 2005.

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