Achievements 2


  • Reported the first direct evidence that a tiny filament extending from cells, known as primary cilia, may play a role in the most common malignant brain tumor in children and in a type of skin cancer known as basal cell carcinoma. The findings, conducted by two separate UCSF teams, suggest that drugs that boost or block primary cilia activity could offer a new strategy against cancer. (Arturo Alvarez-Buylla, PhD; and Jeremy Reiter, MD, PhD)
  • Developed a new prostate cancer risk assessment test that gives patients and their doctors a better way of gauging long-term risks and pinpointing high-risk cases. The test, known as CAPRA, predicts the incidence of bone metastases, prostate cancer deaths and deaths from other causes. (Matthew R. Cooperberg, MD, MPH)
  • Discovered the first gene involved in regulating the optimal length of human sleep, which is critical to human physical and mental health. The discovery is significant for future development of interventions to alleviate pathologies associated with sleep disturbance. (Ying-Hui Fu, PhD)
  • Found that simple, inexpensive, high-flow oxygen is an effective treatment for cluster headache pain, providing relief for the disorder without drugs and their potential side effects. (Peter Goadsby, MD, PhD)


  • Performed the 10,000th procedure in the UCSF Organ Transplant Service, one of the largest and oldest in the world. Founded in the 1960s, the service now includes heart, intestinal, kidney, liver, lung and pancreas transplants. UCSF pioneered many advances in the field, and the UCSF service is recognized as the gold standard for other transplant centers. (Nancy Ascher, MD; John Roberts, MD; and Charles Hoopes, MD)
  • Reported new data showing how language is organized within the cortex of the human brain, making it possible to use an innovative technique called negative brain mapping to safely remove tumors near language pathways of the brain. The technique minimizes brain exposure and reduces the amount of time the patient must be awake during surgery. Since the mid-1990s, a UCSF team has conducted pioneering work in brain mapping, a specialty within the neurosciences in which the neurophysiological properties of the brain are charted. (Mitchel Berger, MD)
  • Reported that paramedics equipped with pre-hospital electrocardiographic (ECG) devices that wirelessly transmit critical information to emergency rooms while in route to the hospital can reduce the time it takes to diagnose and treat heart attack patients by more than 30 percent. The time reduction is linked to survival and lower risk of permanent heart muscle damage. (Barbara Drew, RN, PhD)


  • Identified several new genes associated with increased risk of heart attack, suggesting the existence of some previously unrecognized mechanisms and potential new strategies for risk reduction. (John Kane, MD; and Mary Malloy, MD)
  • Determined that smoked cannabis reduces pain caused by HIV-associated neuropathy, the first measurable benefit for medical marijuana shown in a gold standard, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial. (Donald Abrams, MD)


  • Determined that high-calorie, low-fiber Western diets promote hormonal imbalances that encourage children to overeat, thereby fueling the epidemic of pediatric obesity, now the most commonly diagnosed childhood ailment. (Robert Lustig, MD) 
  • Reduced the incidence of malaria to almost zero (by 97 percent) among children with HIV in Uganda by administering prophylactically an inexpensive antibiotic and providing insecticide-treated mosquito nets for coverage while sleeping. (Diane Havlir, MD)


  • Found that eating lots of fruits and vegetables, especially vegetables, is associated with a 50 percent reduction in the risk of developing pancreatic cancer. (Elizabeth Holly, PhD, MPH)


  • Discovered a ribbon of neural stem cells that potentially could be used to develop strategies for regenerating damaged brain tissue – and that could offer new insight into the most common type of brain tumor. (Arturo Alvarez-Buylla, PhD)


Jeffrey Bluestone, PhD

Jeffrey Bluestone, PhD, an international leader in immunotherapy, is executive vice chancellor and provost at UCSF.

  • Developed the ViroChip, a microarray that contains DNA from every known virus and has proven to be a valuable experimental diagnostic tool for identifying previously unknown viruses in both humans and animals. The tool was first used in 2003 to confirm the identity of the virus that caused severe acute respiratory syndrome, known as SARS, as a new corona virus. The technology later became the basis for the UCSF Viral Diagnostics & Discovery Center, as a resource for researchers worldwide.  (Joseph DeRisi, PhD, and Don Ganem, MD)
  • Demonstrated through clinical trials that a new immunosuppressive drug successfully halted the progression of type 1 diabetes. (Jeffrey Bluestone, PhD, who developed the drug in the 1980s before joining the UCSF faculty)
  • Identified (2002 and 1997) receptors in cells of the peripheral nervous system that play key roles in the body’s ability to sense heat and cold, providing major insights into how the body experiences painful stimuli and temperature and produces pain hypersensitivity. The findings are valuable for future development of pain therapeutics. (David Julius, PhD)
  • Designed a model California consumer information system website for the California Healthcare Foundation for evaluating the quality of care in nursing homes.  (Charlene Harrington, RN, PhD)


  • Created two of the first human embryonic stem cell lines in the world, enabling scientists to study how stem cells might be used to treat such diseases and disorders as cancer, heart disease, diabetes and birth defects. (Roger Pedersen, PhD)
  • Demonstrated that low tidal volume (LTV) ventilation is superior to the standard method of inflating the lungs in patients who are suffering from potentially fatal adult respiratory distress syndrome and are supported on a ventilator. The finding improved recovery chances and decreased mortality. (Michael Matthay, MD)
  • Reported a landmark study showing that less invasive computer tomographic (CT) colonography, known as virtual colonoscopy, is effective for the detection of premalignant colorectal polyps and cancer.  (Judy Yee, MD)
  • Determined that chronic pain is a medical condition and not just a symptom, leading to improved strategies of management.  (Christine Miaskowski, RN, PhD)


  • Discovered a pain relief strategy that could provide a long-sought alternative to morphine, without the drug’s addictive quality. The finding provided a window into the complex way in which opioids act on the pain-modulating circuitry in the body and how people experience pain. (Jon Levine, MD, PhD)


  • Identified two molecules that cause cells to induce asthma, a finding that paved the way for developing more effective drugs for treatment. (David Corry, MD)


  • Demonstrated that inflammation and the overproduction of IgE, a natural immunoglobulin, are a key cause of allergic asthma attacks. The proof-of-concept studies led to an entirely new class of asthma drugs. (Homer Boushey, MD)


  • Identified (1996 and 1989) new methods for studying the motility of single molecule motor proteins in cells and determined that two major motor protein families (kinesin and myosin) have similar atomic structures and operate by similar principles.  Motor proteins are vital to normal cell function, and the findings are significant for understanding the molecular basis of cell division, transport within nerve cells, and muscle contraction. (Ron Vale, PhD, who was involved in the 1985 discovery of kinesin before joining the UCSF faculty)
  • Determined that interventions to reduce emotional stress in heart disease patients and their family members have direct impact on reducing incidence of sudden cardiac death among these individuals.  (Kathleen Dracup, RN, DNSc, dean emeritus, UCSF School of Nursing)


Cynthia Kenyon, PhD

Cynthia Kenyon, PhD

  • Discovered genes that can double the lifespan of the roundworm C. elegans.  These genes encode components of a conserved hormone signaling pathway, and have now been linked to exceptional longevity in flies and mammals, including humans.  (Cynthia Kenyon, PhD)
  • Discovered the regulatory machinery of the "unfolded protein response," a signaling pathway that controls protein folding in the cell.  Proper protein folding is necessary for signaling between cells and healthy cell function, and disruption of this process is associated with numerous diseases, including cancer, diabetes, cystic fibrosis and vascular and neurodegenerative disorders. Followup studies have focused on elucidating the mechanism by which the unfolded protein response operates, which is key to understanding its role in development of disease and of potential treatments.  (Peter Walter, PhD)


  • Cloned the vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) receptor, a key step in the eventual development of anti-angiogenesis drugs, which target the blood vessels that cancer cells need to grow. (Lewis Williams, MD, PhD, with colleagues at Genentech)


Shaun Coughlin, MD, PhD

Shaun Coughlin, MD, PhD

  • Discovered and cloned the platelet thrombin receptor that regulates blood clotting. The finding enabled the development of a new and potentially revolutionary class of clot-preventing drugs. (Shaun Coughlin, MD, PhD)


  • Patented a simple, cost-effective way to manufacture human proteins in yeast for therapeutic purposes. (Ira Herskowitz, PhD)
  • First to use the X-ray structure of HIV protease to identify an inhibitor that effectively blocks the enzyme's activity, the same method used today to design protease inhibitor drugs.  (Charles Craik, PhD)


  • Devised a tool, now in wide use, for assessing pain and evaluating the effectiveness of medication in relieving pain in adolescent and pediatric patients.  (Marilyn Savedra, DNS)


  • Discovered telomerase, a novel enzyme that plays a key role in normal cell function, cell aging and most cancers. The finding sparked a whole new field of inquiry into treatment of age-related diseases and cancer. The research team received the 2009 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in recognition of the discovery. (Elizabeth Blackburn, PhD, with colleagues Carol Greider of Johns Hopkins University and Jack Szostak of Harvard Medical School)


Keith Yamamoto, PhD

Keith Yamamoto, PhD

  • Installed the first cine-CT imaging device, which made it possible for the first time to image the beating heart. The technique was advantageous for detecting heart pumping and circulatory problems. (Doug Boyd, MD)
  • First to clone a receptor for steroid hormones, a major first step in understanding how these essential signals govern processes as complex as metabolism and reproduction.  This achievement and subsequent research made glucocorticoids the most completely understood of any hormone system and its receptor the best understood human gene regulatory factor, which provided key knowledge for development of new treatments for a wide range of diseases. (Keith Yamamoto, PhD) 
  • First to describe a disease known as hairy leukoplakia, often the first sign of AIDS.  (John Greenspan, BDS, PhD; and Deborah Greenspan, BDS, DSc)


  • Co-discovered the AIDS virus – known as HIV, human immunodeficiency virus – originally calling it AIDS-related retrovirus. (Jay Levy, MD)
  • Produced clear, dramatic images of the soft tissues of the body, using nuclear magnetic resonance (now known as MRI). UCSF researchers went on to direct some of the first clinical placements in the country of devices that provided the images. (Leon Kaufman, PhD; and Larry Crooks, PhD)


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