Tamas Balla received his MD degree from Semmelweis University, School of Medicine, Budapest, Hungary in 1979 and earned his Ph.D. from the Hungarian National Academy of Science in 1987. He was appointed as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Physiology at Semmelweis in 1979 and held this position until 1992. He did his postdoctoral training at the NICHD between 1985-87 with Dr. Kevin Catt and returned to the NIH in 1989. He became a tenure-track investigator in 1997 in the Endocrinology and Reproduction Research Branch, leading the Section of Molecular Signal Transduction and received his tenure in 2004. Currently he is a Senior Investigator leading the same Section, which is now part of the Program for Developmental Neuroscience within the NICHD, NIH. In 2009 Dr. Balla received a D.Sc. degree from the Hungarian Academy of Science and was elected into the Hungarian Academy of Science in 2010.
Dr. Balla started his research by studying the receptors and signaling pathways mediating the actions of angiotensin II in the adrenal cortex. As it turned out, these receptors (as many others) utilize the phosphoinositide – phospholipase C -calcium – signaling cascade and the unfolding of this system turned Dr. Balla’s attention to inositol phospholipids. While studying the metabolism of Ins(1,4,5)P3, he and his colleagues discovered a novel pathway that linked Ins(1,4,5)P3 production to highly phosphorylated inositols and that these metabolites showed long-term changes after agonist stimulation. In the mid 90’s he and his colleagues were the first to discover that the signaling pool of phosphoinositides in the plasma membrane is synthesized by type III PI 4-kinases (not by the type II forms as previously believed). He led the efforts to purify and clone these enzymes from bovine adrenal and -brain and study their functions in cellular physiology. The cellular distribution of these enzymes have clearly indicated that their functions are linked to a variety of trafficking events in addition to their roles in receptor signaling. The highly localized inositide changes prompted Dr. Balla to experiment with fluorescent methods to visualize the cellular distribution and dynamics of inositol lipid changes in live cells. His group was one of the firsts to report on live cell imaging of PtdIns(4,5)P2 and PtdIns(3,4,5)P3. Since then his research is primarily concerned with the roles of phosphatidylinositol 4-kinase enzymes in cellular trafficking and signaling. He also continues to focus on improving methods by which to visualize and manipulate phosphoinositides and other lipids in specific cellular compartments in intact living cells.
Dr. Balla has been elected as an outside member of the Hungarian National Academy of Science. He is member of the American Society of Cell Biology, the American Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and the Hungarian Physiological Society. He serves on the Editorial Board of the Journal of Biological Chemistry and Neurochemistry International, and he is an Associate Editor of BMC Cell Biology. He has published over 140 articles and was invited to speak in numerous national and international conferences.