Bellen Lab

Hugo J. Bellen, D.V.M., Ph.D.

Hugo Bellen is an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Distinguished Service Professor at Baylor College of Medicine (BCM) in the Departments of Molecular and Human Genetics and Neuroscience. Originally from Belgium, Dr. Bellen 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 at Davis and completed postdoctoral research in the laboratory of Dr. Walter Gehring at the University of Basel in Switzerland. He started his independent career as an HHMI Investigator at BCM in 1989 and joined the Neurological Research Institute at Texas Children's Hospital at its inception in 2011.

One of the world's premier researchers in Drosophila (fruit fly) genetics, Dr. Bellen's group has made major contributions to our understanding of nervous system development, synaptic transmission and mechanisms of neurodgeneration. 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 transformed Drosophila biology.

Dr. Bellen's current research focuses on the discovery of new human disease genes and elucidating pathogenic mechanisms of neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative diseases using fruit flies in collaborations with human geneticists worldwide. 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 he has made major strides in solving key problems related to Friedreich ataxia, Alzheimer disease, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, and Parkinson disease.

Dr. Bellen has trained 36 graduate students, including 6 MSTP students, and 45 postdoctoral fellows who are successful in careers in academia and industry. Currently, 20 trainees are in the lab, including a mix of graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. Dr. Bellen received the BCM Presidential Award for Excellence in Leadership in Science and Research mentoring in 2018.

Dr. Bellen has organized numerous national and international meetings. He is currently co-organizer of TAGC2020, The Allied Genetics Conference to be held in Washington, DC in 2020. He served as a member of the editorial board of the Journal of Cell Biology for 15 years, and is currently serving as a member of the editorial boards of eLife, PLoS Biology, and Genetics. He is the chair of the scientific advisory board of the Bloomington Drosophila Stock Center, and is a member of the scientific advisory boards of FlyBase, the NHGRI Alliance of Genome Resources, the Gill Center for Biomolecular Science, and the INADcure Foundation. He was previously on the scientific advisory boards of the Max Planck Institute in Göttingen, Germany, the Academia Sinica in Taipei, Taiwan, the KAIST in Daejeon, Korea, and the VIB in Leuven, Belgium.

Dr. Bellen's awards include the George Beadle Award from the Genetics Society of America; the Linda & Jack Gill Distinguished Neuroscience Investigator Award from Indiana University; the Miegunyah Distinguished Visiting Fellowship from the University of Melbourne; the Distinguished Alumnus Award from the University of California, Davis; the Michael E. DeBakey, MD, Excellence in Research Award, and the Dean's Faculty Award for Excellence in Graduate Education from Baylor College of Medicine. Dr. Bellen served as the Director of the BCM Graduate Program in Developmental Biology for more than 20 years. He is also the March of Dimes Professor in Developmental Biology and the Charles Darwin Professor in Genetics at Baylor College of Medicine.