Why I Became a Scientist
From my parents, I developed at an early age a great appreciation for academics and learning. I attended the University of Toronto and received my medical degree in 1981. Specialty training in Internal Medicine and Endocrinology was followed by four years of post-doctoral training, first at the Rockefeller University, New York City, in heart disease and cholesterol, and then in human genetics at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in Salt Lake City, Utah. It was during my research fellowship in New York City that I became inspired to pursue research in genetics. With a strong belief in the power of human genetics and genomics to help solve fundamental problems related to human health and disease, my lab began researching the genetic basis of several human disorders, most notably several forms of dyslipidemia (high cholesterol) and type 2 diabetes.
Rob Hegele is Distinguished University Professor of Medicine and Biochemistry, Western University, and Director of London Regional Genomics Centre at Robarts Research Institute. He holds the Wolfe Distinguished Medical Research Chair, the Edith Schulich Vinet Chair in Human Genetics and the Blackburn Chair in Cardiovascular Research.
He cares for > 2000 patients in his lipid clinic at University Hospital. He was first in North America to use 5 medications that are now routinely prescribed to treat high cholesterol or diabetes.
His laboratory discovered the molecular genetic basis of 25 human diseases. He has published > 690 papers, which have been cited > 25,000 times in the medical literature. He is listed in the ISI database of the top 1% of highly cited scientists in the world. In 2018 the website “Expertscape.com” ranked him #1 globally for “disorders of lipid metabolism”.
He has contributed to national clinical practice guidelines for cholesterol, blood pressure and diabetes, and to international guidelines on familial hypercholesterolemia and hypertriglyceridemia. He has trained many physicians, medical students and graduate students.
Why do some individuals and families develop heart disease and stroke despite very clean living and healthy lifestyles?
Identification of new genes that can cause heart disease, stroke and such high risk conditions as diabetes, hyperlipidemia and hypertension.
Identification of new genes leads to new understanding of pathways for these diseases and is the first step in the development of new diagnostic methods and treatments.
Why are certain aboriginal groups in Canada so highly predisposed to developing diabetes?
Identification of new genes and the exacerbating environmental factors that cause diabetes can lead to new understanding of the underlying pathways and is the first step in the development of new diagnostic methods and treatments.
How is it that certain people can eat as much as they like and not gain any weight, while some others eat sparingly but cannot seem to lose weight?
Identification of new genes that create susceptibility to obesity can lead to new understanding of the underlying pathways and is the first step in the development of new diagnostic methods and treatments.
- 1975 Associate (Honours), Royal Conservatory of Music of Toronto
- 1981 MD (Honours), University of Toronto
- FRCP(C), Internal Medicine (1985)
- FRCP(C), Subspecialty certification, Endocrinology & Metabolism (1987)
- Research Associate, Biochemical Genetics & Metabolism (1985-1987)
- Rockefeller University, New York, New York
- Research Associate, Human Genetics, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Salt Lake City, Utah (1987-1989)
- FACP, Internal Medicine (1991)
- FAHA (2004)
- FCAHS (2007)
- FCCS (2016)
- Young Investigator Award, American Federation for Clinical Research (1995)
- Canada Research Chair in Human Genetics, Tier I (2000)
- Elected to membership, American Society for Clinical Investigation (2001)
- American Heart Association Top Ten Scientific Discoveries for 2001 (2001)
- Government of Ontario Distinguished Researcher Award (2001)
- Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry Award of Excellence, UWO (2001)
- Canadian Diabetes Association Young Scientist Award (2002)
- Edith Schulich Vinet Canada Research Chair in Human Genetics, Tier I (2004)
- Hellmuth Prize for Achievement in Research, UWO (2004)
- American Heart Association, Jeffrey M. Hoeg Award for Basic Science & Clinical Research, Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis & Vascular Biology Council (2004)
- 35th Charles H. Best Lecture Award, Toronto Diabetes Association (2005)
- Jacob J. Wolfe Distinguished Medical Research Chair in Human Gene Function (2005)
- William F. Grant and Peter B. Moens Award of Excellence, Genetics Society of Canada (2006)
- Distinguished University Professor Award, UWO (2007)
- Elected to Fellowship in the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences (2007)
- American Heart Association, Special Recognition Award in Arteriosclerosis, Scientific Council on Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology (2007)
- Jean Davignon Distinguished Cardiovascular Metabolic Research Award (2007)
- Department of Medicine Research Award of Excellence, U.W.O. (2009)
- American Heart Association ATVB Distinguished Achievement Award, Scientific Council on Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology (2011)
- Canada Research Chair Program. Exception Contribution to the College of Reviewers (2012)
- The Journal of Lipid Research Lectureship Award, 2012 Kern Conference on Lipid Metabolism (2012)
- Donald B. Zilversmit Memorial Lecture and Award for Outstanding Research, 5th International Symposium on Chylomicrons in Disease (ISCD) Boston (2016)
- Expertscape.com has ranked "Hegele RA" #1 globally for "lipid metabolism disorders" and "hypertriglyceridemia" (2016)
- Expertscape.com has ranked "Hegele RA" #1 globally for "disorders of lipid metabolism" (2018)
Joy T, Hegele RA. Is raising HDL a futile strategy for atheroprotection? Nat Rev Drug Discov 2008; 7:143-155. (PMID: 18239670)
Hegele RA. Plasma lipoproteins: genetic influences and clinical implications. Nat Rev Genet 2009; 10:109-121. (PMID: 19139765)
Lahiry P, Torkamani A, Schork N, Hegele RA. Kinase mutations in human disease: Interpreting genotype-phenotype relationships. Nat Rev Genet 2010; 11:60-74. (PMID: 20019687)
Johansen CT, Wang J, Lanktree MB , Cao H, McIntyre AD, Ban MR, Martins RA, Kennedy BA, Hassell RG, Visser ME, Schwartz SM, Voight BF, Elosua R, Salomaa V, O’Donnell CJ, Dallinga-Thie GM, Anand SS, Yusuf S, Huff MW, Kathiresan S, Hegele RA. Excess of rare variants in genes identified by genome-wide association study of hypertriglyceridemia. Nat Genet 2010; 42:684-687. (PMID: 20657596)
Lee JH, Giannikopoulos P, Duncan SA, Wang J, Johansen CT, Brown JD, Plutzky J, Hegele RA, Glimcher LH, Lee AH. The transcription factor cyclic AMP-responsive element-binding protein H regulates triglyceride metabolism. Nat Med 2011; 17:812-815. (PMID: 21666694)
Ng DS, Wong NC, Hegele RA. HDL – is it too big to fail? Nat Rev Endocrinol 2013; 9:308-312. (PMID: 23318230)
Hegele RA, Ginsberg HN, Chapman MJ, Nordestgaard BG, Kuivenhoven JA, Averna M, Borén J, Bruckert E, Catapano AL, Descamps OS, Hovingh GK, Humphries SE, Kovanen PT, Masana L, Pajukanta P, Parhofer KG, Raal FJ, Ray KK, Santos RD, Stalenhoef AF, Stroes E, Taskinen MR, Tybjærg-Hansen A, Watts GF, Wiklund O; on behalf of the European Atherosclerosis Society Consensus Panel. The polygenic nature of hypertriglyceridaemia: implications for definition, diagnosis, and management. Lancet Diabetes Endocrinol. 2013 Dec 23 pii: S2213-8587(13)70191-8. (PMID: 24731657)
Brahm AJ, Hegele RA. Chylomicronaemia: Current diagnosis and future therapies. Nat Rev Endocrinol 2015; 11:352-62.(PMID:25732519)
Farhan SM, Hegele RA. Trial watch: Antisenses working overtime in lipids. Nat Rev Endocrinol 2015; 11:574-576. (PMID: 26303603)
Hunter PM, Hegele RA. Functional foods and dietary supplements for the management of dyslipidaemia. Nat Rev Endocrinol 2017; 13:278-288. (PMID: 28133369)
Iacocca MA, Wang J, Dron JS, JS, Robinson JF, McIntyre AD, Cao H, Hegele RA. Use of next-generation sequencing to detect LDLR gene copy number variation in familial hypercholesterolemia. J Lipid Res 2017; 58:2202-2209 (PMID: 28874442)
Defesche JC, Gidding SS, Harada-Shiba M, Hegele RA, Santos RD, Wierzbicki AS. Familial hypercholesterolaemia. Nat Rev Dis Primers 2017; 3:17093. (PMID: 29219151)
Rosenson RS, Brewer HB Jr, Barter PJ, Björkegren JLM, Chapman MJ, Gaudet D, Kim DS, Niesor E, Rye KA, Sacks FM, Tardif JC, Hegele RA. HDL and atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease: genetic insights into complex biology. Nat Rev Cardiol 2018; 15:9-19. (PMID: 28795686)
Berberich AJ, Hegele RA. Nutraceuticals in 2017: Nutraceuticals in endocrine disorders. Nat Rev Endocrinol 2018; 14:68-70. (PMID: 29286047)
Dron JS, Wang J, Berberich AJ, Iacocca MA, Cao H, Yang P, Knoll J, Tremblay K, Brisson D, Netzer C, Gouni-Berthold I, Gaudet D, Hegele RA. Large-scale deletions of the ABCA1 gene in patients with hypoalphalipoproteinemia. J Lipid Res 2018; [E-pub ahead of print] (PMID: 29866657)
Berberich AJ, Hegele RA. The complex molecular genetics of familial hypercholesterolaemia. Nat Rev Cardiol 2018; [E-pub ahead of print] (PMID: 29973710)
Robarts Research Institute
1151 Richmond St. N.
London, ON N6A 5B7