Four UCSF faculty elected to Institute of Medicine

By Jennifer O'Brien

Kathleen M. Giacomini, PhD

Four UCSF faculty scientists are among the 65 new members elected to the Institute of Medicine, part of the National Academy of Sciences, the Institute announced today.

The new UCSF members are:

  • Kathleen Giacomini, PhD, professor and chair of biopharmaceutical sciences.
  • James Marks, MD, PhD, professor of anesthesia and pharmaceutical chemistry at UCSF and chief of anesthesia at San Francisco General Hospital Medical Center.
  • Arnold Milstein, MD, MPH, associate clinical professor of psychiatry
  • John L.R. Rubenstein, MD, PhD, the Nina Ireland Distinguished Professor in Child Psychiatry and a basic science researcher in the Department of Psychiatry.

The election brings to 73 the number of UCSF faculty who are members of the prestigious Institute. Election to the Institute recognizes those who have made major contributions to the advancement of the medical sciences, health care, and public health.  It is considered one of the highest honors in these fields.

Kathleen Giacomini, PhD, professor and chair of biopharmaceutical sciences, is an expert on membrane transporters, proteins that control the movement of drugs and natural compounds into and out of cells. Her research focuses on the role of transporters in drug disposition. Giacomini is a leader in the new field of pharmacogenetics, which seeks to identify the genetic basis of response to drugs. She is the principal investigator of a multi-disciplinary project funded by the National Institutes of Health to determine if variations in the genes of people’s membrane transporters affects their sensitivity or resistance to drugs used to treat a variety of diseases, including cancer and depression.  The aim is improved drug design, drug selection for patients and more effective treatment, with quicker drug response and fewer side effects.

James D. Marks, MD, PhD, professor of anesthesia and pharmaceutical chemistry at UCSF and chief of anesthesia at San Francisco General Hospital Medical Center, is a world-recognized pioneer in the field of antibody engineering.  He developed widely used technologies employing antibody gene diversity libraries and display technologies that can be used to generate and optimize human therapeutic antibodies. Marks has employed these technologies to better understand the relationship between antibody structure and function and to develop antibody based diagnostics and therapeutics. In the field of oncology, his research has elucidated the impact of antibody biophysical properties on tumor targeting. Working with UCSF Breast SPORE colleagues, his laboratory has generated an antibody against HER2, an oncogene product produced at high levels in breast cancer, and used the antibody to engineer a novel antibody targeted drug. In the field of infectious disease, he has defined how combinations of antibodies can synergize to potently neutralize bacterial toxins. Marks has utilized this approach to generate a combination of three monoclonal antibodies that potently neutralize type A botulinum neurotoxins and which can be mass produced to prevent or treat botulism. 

Arnold Milstein, MD, MPH, is an associate clinical professor of psychiatry at UCSF. He is medical director of the Pacific Business Group on Health in San Francisco, the largest health care purchasers’ coalition in the United States, as well as chief physician for Mercer Health & Benefits, a health care purchaser consulting firm. An expert on methods to advance quality and efficiency in the U.S. healthcare system, Milstein focuses on health care purchasing strategy, clinical performance measurement, and the psychology of clinical performance improvement. He was a founding member of the Leapfrog Group, Bridges to Excellence, the Consumer-Purchaser Disclosure Project, and California’s IHA Physician Pay-for-Performance Program, which he chairs. A Rosenthal lecturer at the Institute of Medicine, he currently serves as a Congressional MedPAC Commissioner. His most recent health policy article on offshoring of U.S. health care appears in the October 19 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.   

John L.R. Rubenstein, MD, PhD, is the Nina Ireland Distinguished Professor in Child Psychiatry and a basic science researcher in the Department of Psychiatry at UCSF.  His research focuses on the regulatory genes that orchestrate development of the forebrain. In the mammalian embryo, the forebrain is the portion of the neural tube where primitive cells are organized to form the cerebral cortex, the basal ganglia and other components of the adult brain—the structures of the human brain most involved in key functions such as speech, language, cognition and fine motor skills. Rubenstein’s lab has demonstrated the role of specific genes in regulating neuronal specification, differentiation, migration and axon growth during embryonic development and on through adult life.  His work may help to explain some of the mechanisms underlying human neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism.

Established in 1970 by the National Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Medicine is a national resource for independent, scientifically informed analysis and recommendations on issues related to human health. With their election, members make a commitment to devote a significant amount of volunteer time as members of IOM study committees.

Current active members elect new members from among candidates nominated for their professional achievement and commitment to service.  The Institute’s charter stipulates that at least one-quarter of the membership be selected from outside the health professions, from such fields as the natural, social, and behavioral sciences, as well as law, administration, engineering, and the humanities.

The Institute of Medicine’s total active membership is now 1,501.  In addition, the Institute has elected five new individuals to foreign associate membership, bringing the total members in that category to 82.  With another 68 members holding emeritus status, the total IOM membership is now 1,651.

UCSF is a leading university that consistently defines health care worldwide by conducting advanced biomedical research, educating graduate students in the health professions and life sciences, and providing complex patient care.