Tom Brenna, PhD

Director
Tom Brenna, PhD

Tom Brenna is professor of pediatrics, of chemistry, and of nutrition at the Dell Medical School and the College of Natural Sciences at the University of Texas at Austin, and recently Professor Emeritus at Cornell University. His group pursues basic and translational research into the chemical, biochemical, metabolic, genetic and ecological aspects of fatty acids. He has served on numerous international policy groups, most recently the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee.

The American Society for Nutrition awarded him the 2017 Osborne and Mendel Award for outstanding contributions to basic research in nutrition; with ASN’s Robert Herman Award for advancement of clinical nutrition (2013), he is only the fourth person to be honored with both awards.

He is a member of graduate fields in Cornell’s four large colleges: Nutrition (CHE and CALS), Food Science and Technology (CALS); Chemistry and Chemical Biology (Arts); Geological Sciences (Engineering and CALS), and in a long-standing collaboration with a prominent former member of Cornell’s College of Veterinary Medicine. His research group has been funded by institutes/centers at the NIH (NIGMS, NEI, NICHD, NCRR) and has included at least one active R01 continuously since 1992. These grants have supported fundamental work in the nutrition of polyunsaturated fatty acids, and development of advanced mass spectrometry instrumentation and techniques.

His current research activities are concerned with three areas: requirements for polyunsaturated and branched chain fatty acids especially in the perinatal period, development of advanced analytical chemical instrumentation particularly mass spectrometry for biomedical applications, and development of high precision isotope ratio mass spectrometry for anti-doping applications. Tom’s polyunsaturated fatty acid work focuses on factors that influence demand for omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, and most of his studies are conducted in animals. His instrumentation work is aimed at development of high precision isotope ratio mass spectrometry for tracer applications and for detection of natural physiological isotopic fractionation. Studies of omega-3 fatty acids are often based on stable isotope tracers and also employ molecular and genetic techniques. His team is focused on brain and associated organ development, and on branched chain fatty acids in human nutrition.

Tom’s professional activities include:

  • Faculty at new Dell Medical School at the University of Texas at Austin
  • Cornell University Graduate Field Memberships: Nutrition; Chemistry and Chemical Biology; Geological Sciences; Food Science and Technology.
  • President, International Society for the Study of Fatty Acids and Lipids, ISSFAL
  • One of 15 nationally recognized experts to serve on the U.S. 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee
  • Co-Organizer, Mass Spectrometry in Food Safety and Quality. ASMS Asilomar Conference on Mass Spectrometry, October 2012
  • Editorial Board, Fats of Life Newsletter
  • First Editor/Editorial Board, British Journal of Nutrition
  • Editorial Board, Rapid Communications in Mass Spectrometry

Tom holds a Ph.D. from Cornell University, Analytical Chemistry, a M.S. from Cornell University, Analytical Chemistry, and a B.S. from University of Connecticut, Nutritional Biochemistry.