Yusuf A. Hannun

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Yusuf A. Hannun
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Yusuf Awni Hannun

(1955-09-21) September 21, 1955 (age 66)
Saudi Arabia
CitizenshipUnited States
  • BSc.
  • MD
Alma mater
  • American University of Beirut
  • Duke University
  • Molecular biologist
  • Biochemist
  • Clinician
Known forFor the seminal discovery that sphingolipids have signaling functions.
Spouse(s)Lina M. Obeid
  • Reem
  • Marya
  • Awni
  • Dr. Awni Hannun (father)
  • Mrs. Aida Ashur-Hannun (mother)
  • South Carolina Governor's award
  • ASBMB Avanti award

Yusuf A. Hannun is an American molecular biologist, biochemist, and clinician. He is best known for the seminal discovery that sphingolipids have signaling functions.

Early life

Born in Saudi Arabia, Hannun earned a Bachelor of Science at the American University of Beirut in 1977.[1] Following his undergraduate degree, Hannun continued at the American University of Beirut, obtaining an MD in 1981 (with distinction) and completing his internship and a residency in internal medicine.[2]

Discovery of Sphingolipid Signaling

In 1983, Hannun left Lebanon and went to Duke University.[1] It was during this time that Hannun made the initial discovery that protein kinase C was inhibited by sphingosine,[2] showing a bioactive effect for a sphingolipid for the first time and suggesting that "a role for sphingolipids in transmembrane signaling may emerge".[2] Prior to this discovery, sphingolipids had primarily been thought to be inert, structural components of cell membranes. Subsequent work by Hannun and his laboratory demonstrated the turnover of sphingolipids in response to cell stimuli,[3] [4] analogous to phosphoinositide turnover, and the linking of sphingolipids, most notably ceramide, to biologies such as cell death, growth arrest, and differentiation.[3][4][5][6] These early studies by Hannun and his colleagues ushered in a period of broader investigation on sphingolipid metabolism and function.

Subsequent Career

In 2012, Hannun was recruited to be Director of the Cancer Center and Vice Dean for Cancer Medicine at Stony Brook University. He is also co-director of the Kavita and Lalit Bahl Center for Metabolomics and Imaging,[7][8] a major program focused on the study of lipids, metabolism, and imaging in Cancer Biology and Therapeutics.[9] Under Hannun's leadership, cancer research and care at Stony Brook has expanded, including the establishing of a new department of bioinformatics to use computer technology to collect and analyze biological data. This culminated in the opening of the Medical and Research Translation (MART) facility in 2019, which enables scientists and clinicians to work in close proximity, to help advance cancer research and rapidly translate basic research findings into new clinical tools and therapies.[10]

Research Contributions, Honors, and Awards

Hannun is considered a pioneer in the field of bioactive sphingolipids, contributing over 500 academic research articles and reviews, and publishing a number of books. In 2004, he was elected as a fellow in the American Association for the Advancement of Science.[11] In 2006, he was given the South Carolina Governor's award for scientific research .[12] In 2011, he was awarded the ASBMB Avanti award for excellence in research.[13][14] Most recently, the contributions of Hannun and his wife Lina M. Obeid to sphingolipid research were recognized by a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 16th International Conference on Bioactive Lipids in Cancer, Inflammation and Related Diseases - the first time that it was given as a joint award.[15]

Personal life

While at the American University of Beirut, Hannun met his wife Lina M. Obeid, a fellow physician scientist and biomedical researcher who also made seminal contributions to the sphingolipid field. Their triplet children,[16] Reem, Marya, and Awni, have all found careers in research.[17][18][19] Obeid passed away in November 2019 from complications of lung cancer.[20]


  1. 1.0 1.1 "Yusuf Hannun". Honorary Doctorates, American University of Beirut. Retrieved 2020-05-19.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Yusuf A. Hannun, Carson R. Loomis, Alfred A. Merril Jr, and Robert M. Bell "Sphingosine inhibition of protein kinase C activity and of phorbol dibutyrate binding in vitro and in human platelets" J. Biol. Chem., vol. 261, issue 27, 1986, p. 12604-9. Accessed 19 May 2020.}}
  3. 3.0 3.1 T. Okazaki, R. Bell. and Y.A. Hannun "Sphingomyelin turnover induced by vitamin D3 in HL-60 cells: Role in cell differentiation" J. Biol. Chem., vol. 264, issue 32, 1989, p. 19076-80. Accessed 19 May 2020.
  4. 4.0 4.1 3. M-Y. Kim, C. Linardic, L. Obeid, and Y.A. Hannun "Identification of Sphingomyelin Turnover as an Effector Mechanism for the Action of TNF-alpha and Interferon-gamma: Specific Role in Cell Differentiation" J. Biol. Chem., vol. 266, issue 1, 1991, p. 484-89. Accessed 19 May 2020.
  5. Lina M. Obeid, Corrine M. Linardic, Linda A. Karolak, and Yusuf A. Hannun "Programmed cell death induced by ceramide" Science, vol. 259, issue 5102, 1993, p. 1769-1771. Accessed 18 May 2020.
  6. S. Jayadev, B. Liu, A.E. Bielawska, J.Y. Lee, F. Nazaire, MYu. Pushkareva, L.M. Obeid, and Y.A. Hannun "Role for ceramide in cell cycle arrest" J. Biol. Chem., vol. 270, issue 5, 1995, p. 2047-2052. Accessed 19 May 2020.
  7. Ricks, Delthia (November 30, 2016). "Cancer center opening at Stony Brook". Newsday. Retrieved 2020-01-11.
  8. "The Kavita and Lalit Bahl Center for Metabolomics and Imaging". Youtube. Retrieved 2020-05-19.
  9. Avila, Joseph De (November 13, 2006). "Family History Inspires Cancer Lab". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2020-01-11.
  10. "The Future of Cancer Care and Research". Stony Brook University News. November 16, 2018. Retrieved 2020-06-09.
  11. "2004 AAAS Fellows annual report" (PDF). AAAS. Retrieved 2020-06-12.
  12. Abole, Cindy. "Hannun receives governor's award in science". MUSC. Retrieved 2020-06-12.
  13. "South Carolina researcher wins Avanti Award in Lipids". Eurekalert. Retrieved 2020-06-12.
  14. "Avanti Award in Lipids". ASBMB. Retrieved 2020-06-12.
  15. "Dynamic Duo: Cancer Researchers Receive Lifetime Achievement Award". Stony Brook Cancer Center. Retrieved 2020-05-19.
  16. McCurdy, Layton (May 29, 2012). "Biochemistry, Molecular Biology chair named". Medical University of South Carolina. Retrieved 2020-01-11.
  17. "Bio - Reem A Hannun". NASA Science and Exploration Directorate. Retrieved 2020-01-11.
  18. "Marya Hannun". Georgetown University Faculty Directory. Retrieved 2020-01-11.
  19. "Awni Hannun". Stanford University. Retrieved 2020-01-11.
  20. Dunaief, Daniel. "Lina Obeid, Renowned Award-Winning SBU Scientist". TBR News Media. Retrieved 2020-01-11.

External links

This article "Yusuf A. Hannun" is from Wikipedia. The list of its authors can be seen in its historical. Articles taken from Draft Namespace on Wikipedia could be accessed on Wikipedia's Draft Namespace.