Renowned yeast and human geneticist at UCSF receives major research honor

Ira Herskowitz, PhD, professor of biochemistry and biophysics and co-director of the Program in Human Genetics at the University of California, San Francisco, has received the 2003 Lewis S. Rosenstiel Award for Distinguished Work in Basic Medical Research.

The internationally recognized honor, considered on par with the Lasker award, is given annually to scientists for recent discoveries of particular originality and importance to basic medical research. It is presented by Brandeis University on the basis of recommendations of leading scientists selected by the Rosenstiel Basic Medical Sciences Research Center at the university.

Herskowitz was honored for his pioneering genetic studies on the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, which have yielded major insights into the fundamental aspects of cell biology in all organisms, including humans. He discovered the molecular basis for cellular differentiation, or specialization, in yeast and the molecular mechanisms that control yeast cell division. He also pioneered studies of gene expression, cell signaling, cell formation and growth control in the yeast.

The discoveries have provided major insights into how changes within DNA contribute to inherited diseases, and thus have tremendous implications for the treatment and prevention of such diseases. More broadly, the research has contributed to the understanding of the way in which organisms develop.

Herskowitz was also honored for his ground-breaking studies in pharmacogenetics, the study of the way in which natural variations in individuals' genes can affect their response to drugs. He is co-leader of a novel UCSF National Institutes of Health-funded study aimed at determining how human genetic variation affects the performance of cellular gatekeepers known as membrane transporters, which control whether drugs enter the blood stream. The research is not only uncovering the range and pattern of transporter variation in humans, but also revealin

Contact: Jennifer OBrien
University of California - San Francisco

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