UCSF's Gail Martin, Allan Balmain Admitted to Royal Society

By Jyoti Madhusoodanan

Two UC San Francisco faculty members were formally admitted as new members of the Royal Society, the world’s oldest continuously operating scientific society, and honored in a ceremony earlier this month.

Gail Martin, PhD

Gail Martin, PhD, emerita professor of anatomy, was elected as a Foreign Member of the Royal Society through a peer review process based on scientific excellence. Across scientific disciplines, this rare honor is awarded to only 10 individuals worldwide each year.

Martin was recognized by The Royal Society as a “world-leader in understanding the function of Fibroblast Growth Factors (FGFs) in vertebrate embryos.” She was among the first to recognize the role of growth factors in mediating how cells interact during development. Her pivotal contributions helped establish the role of FGFs as well as how their signals are controlled. Martin was the first to coin the term “embryonic stem cells,” and was among the first to isolate pluripotent stem cells from mouse embryos. 

Over the course of her career, Martin has received several other honors, including a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Edwin Grant Conklin Medal from the Society for Developmental Biology, the Pearl Meister Greengard Prize, and the FASEB Excellence in Science Award. She was elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1991 and a member of the US National Academy of Sciences in 2002.

Allan Balmain, PhD

Allan Balmain, PhD, who is the Barbara Bass Bakar Distinguished Professor in Cancer Genetics at UCSF, was formally elected as a ‘Fellow of the Royal Society,’ one of up to 52 new fellows each year, for his pioneering work using mice as a model system to study cancer. His “wide ranging, innovative use of mouse genetics has generated new approaches for visualizing the genetic architecture of cancer pathways,” according to the Society.

Balmain was the first to link exposure to a carcinogen with the initiation of cancer and identified many of the genetic events that cause cancers or make them progress after exposure to chemical mutagens or radiation.

The Royal Society recognition is “testament to Allan’s huge achievements and the esteem in which he is held by his peers," said Alan Ashworth, PhD, president of the UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center.

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