Elaine Fuchs, Rebecca C. Lancefield Professor and head of the Laboratory of Mammalian Cell Biology and Development at Rockefeller University, will be awarded the 2012 Academy Medal for Distinguished Contributions in Biomedical Science from the New York Academy of Medicine (NYAM), for her innovative and imaginative approaches to research in skin biology, its stem cells and its associated human genetic disorders.
NYAM has been awarding the medal to eminent scientists in biomedicine, particularly those with a special interest in translating research findings to advance human health, since 1929. Fuchs, who is also a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator, will be honored at the Academy’s 165th Anniversary Discourse and Awards event in November.
Fuchs’s lab investigates the molecular mechanisms of skin stem cells, how they make and repair tissues and how cancers develop. Her group focuses on the mechanisms that impart skin stem cells with the ability to self-renew, develop and maintain tissues, and how these cells respond to external cues and depart from their niche to accomplish these tasks. Fuchs uncovered the genetic basis of blistering skin diseases and deciphered the characteristics of skin stem cells that allow them to develop into distinct tissues and organs. She also pioneered the use of reverse genetics, which studies protein functions and then determines what diseases occur when the proteins malfunction.
Fuchs received her B.S. in chemistry from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, in 1972 and her Ph.D. in biochemistry in 1977 from Princeton University. She was a postdoc at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology from 1977 to 1980. Fuchs was the Amgen Professor of Basic Sciences at the University of Chicago before coming to Rockefeller in 2002. She was named the Rebecca C. Lancefield Professor the same year. She has been a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator since 1988.
She is the recipient of a number of honors, including the 2012 March of Dimes Prize in Developmental Biology, 2011 Albany Medical Center Prize in Medicine and Biomedical Research, 2011 Passano Prize, 2011 Madison Medal, 2010 L’Oréal-UNESCO Award in the Life Sciences, 2010 Charlotte Friend Award from the American Association for Cancer Research and the 2009 National Medal of Science.
Previous Rockefeller recipients of the Medal for Distinguished Contributions in Biomedical Science include Vincent Astor Professor Emeritus James E. Darnell, Jr.