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Heide Ford, PhD | Chair of the Department of Pharmacology | University of Colorado School of Medicine

Heide Ford Named Chair of Pharmacology at CU School of Medicine

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Written by Mark Couch on May 17, 2022

Heide Ford, PhD, professor of pharmacology, has been named chair of the Department of Pharmacology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, effective June 15.

Ford joined the CU School of Medicine in 2001, after completing a postdoctoral fellowship at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School. In addition to her tenured appointment in pharmacology, Ford is associate director of basic research at the University of Colorado Cancer Center.

“Dr. Ford is an accomplished researcher, distinguished educator, and active contributor to campus leadership activities,” says John J. Reilly, Jr., MD, dean of the CU School of Medicine and vice chancellor of health affairs for the CU Anschutz Medical Campus.

“We are fortunate that Dr. Ford has accepted this important leadership role,” Reilly says. “She knows our programs quite well and has been successful in building strong relationships with her peers on campus. She has been a role model for her colleagues, and I am confident that she can make immediate contributions as the chair of pharmacology. We all will benefit from her continuing leadership on our campus.”

Ford’s laboratory explores the parallels between normal development and tumorigenesis, examining how developmental genes get “hijacked” by tumor cells to perform their normal developmental function in those tumor cells. The lab seeks to understand how hijacking of these genes promotes the aggressiveness of tumors.

“Our goal is to understand these fundamental biological processes so that we can develop novel drugs that target these developmental proteins,” Ford says.

Ford earned an undergraduate degree in biology, with a minor in chemistry, from the State University of New York at Geneseo, and her master’s and PhD degrees in biochemistry from the University of Rochester, both in upstate New York. She then joined Dana-Farber and Harvard as a postdoctoral fellow studying cell cycle control/cancer biology.

Since joining CU, Ford’s lab has been continuously funded by the National Cancer Institute, focusing on role of developmental regulators in breast and pediatric tumorigenesis and metastasis. She holds or has pending six patents.

Ford has published more than 85 peer-reviewed primary research articles and reviews, the vast majority related to tumor progression and metastasis. Ford serves in many leadership roles in the scientific community, including chairing study sections at the National Cancer Institute and running international conferences. She also serves on editorial boards and as senior/deputy editor for Molecular Cancer Research and Breast Cancer Research.

As a faculty member in graduate bioscience programs on the CU Anschutz Medical Campus, she has mentored scores of students, served on thesis committees, and has received several awards recognizing outstanding mentorship.

Ford succeeds Andrew Thorburn, DPhil, who stepped down from the chair role in February. Mark Dell’Acqua, PhD, professor of pharmacology, has served as interim chair since February.