Elaine Fuchs, Rebecca C. Lancefield Professor and head of the Laboratory of Mammalian Cell Biology and Development at Rockefeller University, is one of three recipients of this year’s Robert J. and Claire Pasarow Foundation Medical Research Awards in Cancer Research. Pasarow awards, first presented in 1987, honor extraordinary achievement, creativity and distinction in the areas of cancer, cardiovascular disease and neuropsychiatry.
Fuchs shares the prize with Richard Peto of the University of Oxford and Matthew P. Scott of Standford University. Each of the three scientists will receive $20,000 to support ongoing research. This is the 25th and final year that the Pasarow Awards will be presented; the scientists will receive the prize May 10 at the University of Southern California.
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 Medal from the New York Academy of Medicine, 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 Pasarow awards include Bruce McEwen, head of the Harold and Margaret Milliken Hatch Laboratory of Neuroendocrinology; Barry Coller, head of the Laboratory of Blood and Vascular Biology; and Jan Breslow, head of the Laboratory of Biochemical Genetics and Metabolism.