CRI’s Sean Morrison elected to European Molecular Biology Organization

DALLAS – July 4, 2023 – Stem cell biologist Sean J. Morrison, Ph.D., Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator and founding Director and Professor of the Children’s Medical Center Research Institute at UT Southwestern (CRI), has been elected by his peers as an associate member of the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO).

Dr. Morrison holds the Kathryne and Gene Bishop Distinguished Chair in Pediatric Research at Children’s Research Institute at UT Southwestern and the Mary McDermott Cook Chair in Pediatric Genetics

Dr. Morrison studies the cellular and molecular mechanisms that regulate stem cell function and the role these mechanisms play in cancer. His laboratory pioneered methods to purify stem cells from multiple tissues and discovered mechanisms that allow stem cells to persist throughout life to regenerate tissues after injury. His laboratory discovered key mechanisms that regulate stem cell self-renewal as well as the location and cellular composition of specialized microenvironments that promote the maintenance of hematopoietic stem cells in adult blood-forming tissues.

Fiona Watt, EMBO Director, said of the newly elected members who reside in more than 20 countries “These remarkable scientists have unraveled molecular secrets of life, deepened our understanding of health and disease, and are paving the way for further discoveries and innovations. Their achievements reinforce the critical role that life science research plays in the lives of citizens across Europe and the world.”

Dr. Morrison, one of 26 members of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and 19 members of the U.S. National Academy of Medicine at UT Southwestern Medical Center, joins the EMBO community of more than 2,000 leading life science experts, including 91 Nobel laureates who have been elected to EMBO Membership. New EMBO members are elected by existing EMBO members. The new members will be formally welcomed to EMBO at the annual Members’ Meeting in Heidelberg, Germany, between 25-27 October 2023.

The Morrison Lab studies the intrinsic and extrinsic mechanisms that regulate stem cell self-renewal and the role these mechanisms play in cancer. Self-renewal is the process by which stem cells divide to make more stem cells, perpetuating stem cells throughout life to regenerate tissues.

Dr. Morrison’s team discovered a series of key regulators that distinguish stem cell self-renewal from the proliferation of restricted progenitors in the same tissues. He also identified ways in which self-renewal mechanisms change with age, conferring temporal changes in stem cell properties that match the changing growth and regeneration demands of tissues.

In terms of cell-extrinsic mechanisms, Dr. Morrison identified the location and cellular composition of hematopoietic stem cell (HSC) niches in adult bone marrow and spleen and discovered the Leptin Receptor+ perivascular stromal cells that are the major source of factors required for HSC maintenance in the bone marrow. Researchers demonstrated that HSCs are metabolically distinct from restricted progenitors in vivo and depend upon metabolic regulation for epigenetic control and leukemia suppression.

His lab further discovered that distant metastasis by melanoma cells is limited by oxidative stress and that successfully metastasizing melanoma cells undergo reversible metabolic changes to cope with oxidative stress. They are working to test if “pro-oxidant” therapies that exacerbate oxidative stress in cancer cells can be used to inhibit cancer progression.

Dr. Morrison served as the president of the International Society for Stem Cell Research (2015-2016) and has been active in public policy issues surrounding stem cell research. He is also a Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) Scholar in Cancer Research and a member of the Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center. Dr. Morrison holds the Kathryne and Gene Bishop Distinguished Chair in Pediatric Research at CRI and the Mary McDermott Cook Chair in Pediatric Genetics. Born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Dr. Morrison completed a B.Sc. in biology and chemistry at Dalhousie University in 1991, a Ph.D. in immunology at Stanford University in 1996, and a postdoctoral fellowship in neurobiology at Caltech in 1999.

About CRI

Children’s Medical Center Research Institute at UT Southwestern (CRI) is a joint venture of UT Southwestern Medical Center and Children’s Medical Center Dallas, the flagship hospital of Children’s Health. CRI’s mission is to perform transformative biomedical research to better understand the biological basis of disease. Located in Dallas, Texas, CRI is home to interdisciplinary groups of scientists and physicians pursuing research at the interface of regenerative medicine, cancer biology and metabolism. For more information, visit: To support CRI, visit:

6000 Harry Hines Blvd.
Dallas, TX 75235