Dr. Vincent Tagliabracci, a Sault Ste. Marie native now teaching at a Dallas, Texas university, is in distinguished company.
Two months ago, Tagliabracci was chosen to be one of only 15 scientists across the U.S. to become part of the Searle Scholars Program, which supports research of outstanding individuals who have recently reached the assistant professor level participating in academic research.
Tagliabracci’s research has solved some 130-year-old scientific mysteries, opening the door to the possibility doctors may one day find a cure for breast and bone cancer and other bone disorders, such as osteoporosis.
“It’s still early. There’s a lot of work still to do (but) it felt pretty good. It (the scholarship) was one of the bigger awards I’ve received. It was pretty exciting,” Tagliabracci told SooToday in a telephone interview.
“Call me Vinny,” he added amiably.
Tagliabracci will be receiving $100,000 per year for three years through the Searle Scholars Program to carry on his research into fighting breast and bone cancer.
“It’s a prestigious award for junior faculty members. It’s very competitive,” Tagliabracci said.
Over 160 institutions are invited to participate in the Searle Scholars Program.
The Program was established at The Chicago Community Trust in 1980, funded from the estates of Mr. and Mrs. John G. Searle.
Searle was the grandson of the founder of the world-wide pharmaceutical company, G.D. Searle & Company. It was Mr. Searle's wish that certain funds be used to support “research in medicine, chemistry, and the biological sciences."
“The whole point is to keep making discoveries, that’s the goal,” said Tagliabracci, who now has a lab in which other postdoctorate students assist him with his research.
He wants to climb up the academic ladder to associate professor with tenure, then eventually to the status of full professor.
“I had a great biology teacher at St. Mary’s, and my mother Susan and grandmother Elaine (who still live in the Sault) have been a big inspiration to me.”
“I never thought something like this would happen.”
Tagliabracci, now 35, grew up in the Sault playing hockey like most local children and youth, but was also an avid golfer in the summer months.
When he turned 18, the St. Mary’s College graduate studied biology and chemistry at the University of Indianapolis on a golf scholarship.
“That sparked my interest in medical research,” said Tagliabracci, who earned his PhD in chemistry and molecular biology at the Indiana School of Medicine, then did postdoctorate work at the University of California in San Diego for four years before becoming a molecular biology assistant professor at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas in 2015.
Tagliabracci’s wife is a molecular biology professor who works in the same building at the Dallas medical centre.
“I love it here. Dallas is a phenomenal city,” Tagliabracci said, but added “I try to get home a couple of times a year to see family. The Sault will always be in my blood, it’ll always be home.”