About the Author
Dr. Bjorn R. Olsen, Hersey Professor of Cell Biology at Harvard Medical School and Professor of Developmental Biology at Harvard School of Dental Medicine, received his MD and PhD degrees in 1967 from the University of Oslo, Norway. In 1971, he moved to the United States and joined the faculty at Rutgers Medical School, now Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, where he was Professor of Biochemistry from 1976 until he moved to Harvard Medical School in 1985 as Hersey Professor of Anatomy and Cell Biology. Research in his laboratory has uncovered fundamental roles of collagens, transcription factors and receptors that affect skeletal development and homeostasis, angiogenesis and blood vessel morphogenesis. Work on the roles of extracellular proteins in tissue development led to discovery of several novel families of non-fibrillar collagens and uncovered disease mechanisms in many collagen-based osteochondrodysplasias and other disorders. Other studies identified mutations in the transcription factors HOXD13 and RUNX2 in polysyndactyly and cleidocranial dysplasia. Mapping of the genes for craniofacial disorders, such as cherubism and craniometaphyseal dysplasia led to identification of causative mutations in the siganling regulator SH3BP2, and the pyrophosphate transporter ANK. In research on pathogenetic mechanisms of vascular anomalies, the Olsen laboratory discovered that activating mutations in the receptor tyrosine kinase TIE2 cause venous malformations and identified mutations/ polymorphisms and signqling mechanisms associated with the rapid growth of infantile hemangioma, the most common tumor of infancy. By addressing questions related to skeletal development and vascular disease, the Olsen laboratory has been able to characterize complex developmental and disease mechanisms at the intersection between skeletal and vascular biology. This has recently led to new insights into unexpected intracellular mechanisms by which vascular endothelial growth factor A controls differentiation of mesenchymal stem cells to osteoblasts and adipocytes during bone development and postnatal repair. Dr. Olsen has received many awards and honors, including Honorary Doctor of Science Degrees from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, University of Oslo, Norway, Okayama University, Japan, and Oulu University, Finland; Research Prizes and Awards from American Association of Anatomists, American Society of Matrix Biology, International Association of Dental Research, International Society of Matrix Biology and British Society for Matrix Biology. He is Fellow of American Association of Anatomists and American Association for the Advancement of Science, and he has been the elected organizer and chair of three different Gordon Research Conferences.