Lori Isom, PhD – Board Co-Chair University of Michigan Medical Center
Dr. Isom is the Maurice H. Seevers Professor and Chair of the Department of Pharmacology, Professor of Molecular and Integrative Physiology, and Professor of Neurology at the University of Michigan Medical School. Prior to becoming Chair of Pharmacology she served as Director of the Program in Biomedical Sciences and Assistant Dean for Graduate Education in the University of Michigan Medical School. She received her PhD in Pharmacology at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine and then trained as a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Dr. William A. Catterall at the University of Washington. Dr. Isom’s postdoctoral research included the first cloning, sequencing, and expression of voltage-gated sodium channel SCN1B and SCN2B, encoding b1 and b2 subunits, respectively.
Dr. Isom’s laboratory employs a variety of techniques, including cellular and molecular biology, genetics, and electrophysiology. Highlights of Dr. Isom’s research program include the discovery that sodium channel b subunits, in addition to functioning as ion channel modulators, are multi-functional cell adhesion molecules of the immunoglobulin superfamily that regulate neuronal migration, pathfinding, and fasciculation. She reported the first mutation in SCN1B linked to Dravet syndrome and collaborates with Dr. Jack Parent and Dr. Miriam Meisler to investigate SCN1A, SCN1B, and SCN8A epileptic encephalopathy mutations in mouse models and human induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) neurons and cardiac myocytes.
Her research has focused on the physiology and pharmacology of voltage-gated sodium channels and the role of sodium channel mutations in epilepsy, cardiac arrhythmia, and demyelinating disease. She has played a critical role in using translational research to model and find treatment for a rare form of infantile epilepsy known as Dravet syndrome (DS) that increases risk for Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy (SUDEP). The syndrome has been linked to loss of function mutations in the SCN1A gene that causes an improper folding of NaV1.1 channels in GABAergic interneurons. Decreased excitation of GABA interneurons can lead to neuronal hyper-excitability and seizures as well as cardiac arrhythmias. Dr. Isom’s lab has published over 90 articles and received $22 million in funding to investigate genetic links between neuronal excitability and epileptic encephalopathy.
In addition to her research activities, Dr. Isom serves as PI of an NIH funded T32 grant, co-chairs the Dravet Syndrome Foundation Scientific Advisory Board with Dr. Parent, serves on NIH grant study sections and editorial boards of scientific journals, and has received awards for research and mentoring, including a recent NINDS Javits R37 MERIT award and the University of Michigan Rackham Distinguished Graduate Mentoring Award. In 2011, she was elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science for her work in Neuroscience and Graduate Education.