Gerta Hoxhaj receives the Vilcek Prize for Creative Promise in Biomedical Science for her work on mapping the molecular links between signaling pathways and metabolic networks of cancer cells with a focus on identifying vulnerabilities that could be used to develop targeted therapies.
As the director of the Hoxhaj Lab at the Children’s Medical Center Research Institute at the University of Texas Southwestern, she harnesses the power of classical biochemistry and structural biology to decode altered metabolism in cancer.
Hoxhaj’s overarching goal is to gain insights into the molecular fundamentals that drive cancer metabolism—she and her team study how cells regulate compartment-specific metabolic activity in the context of cancer and metabolic disorders, with a particular focus on those that influence the formation of the coenzyme NADP(H), which is critical for cancer-cell growth and for antioxidant defense. By understanding the factors that influence the production and proliferation of NADP(H), Hoxhaj aims to identify novel therapeutic strategies for the treatment of cancer and metabolic disorders.
Hoxhaj was born and raised in Albania during a time when the country was still a communist state with limited resources. Her family firmly supported her passion for learning. In her final year of high school, she was recognized as one of Albania’s top students and given a government scholarship to study at Boğaziçi University in Istanbul, Turkey.
After graduating with a double major in Molecular Biology & Genetics and in Chemistry, she completed her PhD in Life Sciences at the University of Dundee in the United Kingdom. Knowing that the United States offered the best opportunities for her to pursue research in cancer metabolism, she immigrated to the United States to undertake postdoctoral research at Harvard University. In 2019, she became an assistant professor at the University of Texas Southwestern, establishing her independent research lab.
Hoxhaj is proud of the diverse talent from around the world that her lab attracts. Her goal is to create a “home away from home,” where everyone is accepted and supported—and where she can mentor the next generation of scientists.
Awards and Accomplishments
- Pew-Stewart Scholar (2023)
- American Cancer Society Research Scholar Award (2022)
- V Scholar Award (2021)
- The New York Academy of Sciences (NYAS) Rising Stars of Cancer Metabolism (2021)
- Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) Recruitment Award (2019)
- Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Young Scholars Symposium (2018)
- Tuberous Sclerosis Alliance Postdoctoral Fellowship (2014)
- Vicky H. Whittemore Travel Award (2013)
- Discovery Scholarship Graduate Education Funding (University of Dundee) (2009)
- Summa Cum Laude from the Faculty of Art and Sciences (Boğaziçi University) (2008)
- Rector’s Award: Best International Student of the Year (Boğaziçi University) (2008)
- Exchange Student Scholarship at Boston University (Boğaziçi University) (2007)
- Albanian Ministry of Education Scholarship for studying at Boğaziçi University (2003)