2014 - Elaine Fuchs

Head of Laboratory of Mammalian Cell Biology and Development
The Rockefeller University, New York, NY
Elaine Fuchs, PhD is honored for her many contributions to the biology and molecular mechanisms underlying development and differentiation of the epidermis and its stem cells. Her research has greatly advanced our understanding of epithelial biology and its cancers and provides a foundation for developing reagents for cancer diagnosis and treatment. Dr. Fuchs illuminated how skin stem cells receive environmental signals, change gene expression and remodel cellular interactions to make epidermis and its appendages, and how processes of stem cell activation are deregulated in its cancers. Her studies have shaped our understanding of skin and its associated diseases, in particular cancers and other hyperproliferative disorders.
Dr. Fuchs constructed a framework for understanding how stem cells develop into epithelial tissues and exploited it to uncover links between aberrations in stem cells activation and cancer. She used molecular and genetic approaches to pioneer “reverse genetics,” the reverse of positional-cloning. Her transcriptional interests led to her discovery that Lef1 functions in the decision of skin stem cells to make HFs not epidermis. In elucidating how skin SC populations become activated to make tissues, Fuchs’ research demonstrated that defects in the activation step contribute to cancers. Her discoveries now make possible in months what was previously thought possible only in lower eukaryotes or cell culture. Its implications for cancer therapeutics are wide-ranging.
Dr. Fuchs received her doctorate from Princeton University, and completed postdoctoral training at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, before becoming Assistant Professor of Biochemistry at the University of Chicago. She served as Associate Professor and Professor at the University of Chicago in the departments of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology and Molecular Genetics and Cell Biology. She was also named an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and is currently at Rockefeller University as Professor and Head of the Laboratory of Mammalian Cell Biology & Development.
Copious accolades have been awarded to Dr. Fuchs, including the Searle Scholar Award (1981-83), the Presidential Young Investigator Award (1984-89), the Richard Lounsbery Award from the National Academy of Sciences (2001), the Dickson Prize in Medicine (2004), the National Medal of Science (2009), L’Oreal UNESCO Award for Women in Science (2010), the Albany Prize in Medicine (2011) the Passano Award (2011), March of Dimes Prize in Developmental Biology (2012), and the Pasarow Award for Cancer Research 2013). She is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, Institutes of Medicine, the American Philosophical Society and a Foreign member of EMBO.
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