Forbes D. Porter, M.D.,Ph.D.

Senior Investigator

Section on Molecular Dysmorphology


Clinical Director


10-CRC 5-2571


Research Topics

Cholesterol Metabolism and Genetic Syndromes

Dr. Porter’s research group investigates molecular, biochemical, cellular, and developmental processes that underlie genetic syndromes. Specifically, his research has focused on two rare genetic disorders, Smith-Lemli-Opitz syndrome, and Niemann-Pick Disease, type C1. Smith-Lemli-Opitz syndrome (SLOS) is an inborn error of cholesterol synthesis that results in birth defects and cognitive impairment. Niemann-Pick Disease, type C1 (NPC1) is a neurodegenerative, lysosomal storage disease due to impaired intracellular cholesterol transport. The goal of his sections research efforts is to combine both basic science and clinical expertise to develop and test novel therapeutic interventions for SLOS and NPC1. Laboratory work is focused on development and characterization of mouse models to gain insight into pathological processes underlying these genetic disorders utilizing molecular, biochemical and proteomic techniques. This basic science work complements clinical work by this section which includes longitudinal natural history studies of both SLOS and NPC1. The combination of both basic and clinical science efforts in this research group truly allows for both an integrated bench-to-bedside and bedside-to-bench approach toward understanding the pathology of these disorders and developing therapeutic interventions.


Dr. Forbes D. Porter received his M.D. and Ph.D. degrees from Washington University in St. Louis and subsequently trained in Pediatrics and Genetics at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. He is board certified in Pediatrics and Clinical Genetics. Dr. Porter came to the NIH in 1993 as a postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Heiner Westphal’s laboratory and subsequently formed his own research laboratory in the Heritable Disorders Branch of NICHD. Dr. Porter’s research at the NIH has been focused on understanding pathophysiological processes underlying human genetic disorders in order to develop and test therapeutic interventions.

Selected Publications

  1. Yanjanin NM, Vélez JI, Gropman A, King K, Bianconi SE, Conley SK, Brewer CC, Solomon B, Pavan WJ, Arcos-Burgos M, Patterson MC, Porter FD. Linear clinical progression, independent of age of onset, in Niemann-Pick disease, type C. Am J Med Genet B Neuropsychiatr Genet. 2010;153B(1):132-40.

  2. Porter FD, Scherrer DE, Lanier MH, Langmade SJ, Molugu V, Gale SE, Olzeski D, Sidhu R, Dietzen DJ, Fu R, Wassif CA, Yanjanin NM, Marso SP, House J, Vite C, Schaffer JE, Ory DS. Cholesterol oxidation products are sensitive and specific blood-based biomarkers for Niemann-Pick C1 disease. Sci Transl Med. 2010;2(56):56ra81.

  3. Francis KR, Ton AN, Xin Y, O'Halloran PE, Wassif CA, Malik N, Williams IM, Cluzeau CV, Trivedi NS, Pavan WJ, Cho W, Westphal H, Porter FD. Modeling Smith-Lemli-Opitz syndrome with induced pluripotent stem cells reveals a causal role for Wnt/β-catenin defects in neuronal cholesterol synthesis phenotypes. Nat Med. 2016;22(4):388-96.

  4. Ory DS, Ottinger EA, Farhat NY, King KA, Jiang X, Weissfeld L, Berry-Kravis E, Davidson CD, Bianconi S, Keener LA, Rao R, Soldatos A, Sidhu R, Walters KA, Xu X, Thurm A, Solomon B, Pavan WJ, Machielse BN, Kao M, Silber SA, McKew JC, Brewer CC, Vite CH, Walkley SU, Austin CP, Porter FD. Intrathecal 2-hydroxypropyl-β-cyclodextrin decreases neurological disease progression in Niemann-Pick disease, type C1: a non-randomised, open-label, phase 1-2 trial. Lancet. 2017;390(10104):1758-1768.

  5. Martin KB, Williams IM, Cluzeau CV, Cougnoux A, Dale RK, Iben JR, Cawley NX, Wassif CA, Porter FD. Identification of Novel Pathways Associated with Patterned Cerebellar Purkinje Neuron Degeneration in Niemann-Pick Disease, Type C1. Int J Mol Sci. 2019;21(1).

This page was last updated on August 4th, 2017