3 UCSF Faculty Elected to the National Academy of Sciences for 2017

Three UC San Francisco faculty have been elected to the National Academy of Sciences, one of the highest honors accorded to American scientists.

Robert Edwards, MD; Richard Locksley, MD; and Patrick O’Farrell, PhD, were among the 84 new members and 21 foreign associates in this year’s class.

The elections bring the total number of past and present UCSF members of the esteemed scientific academy to 53.

Robert Edwards
Robert Edwards, MD

Edwards, a professor of neurology and the John and Helen Cahill Family Endowed Chair in Parkinson's Disease Research, studies the mechanisms of chemical communication between neurons, and how this communication breaks down in neurodegenerative diseases. His work has included the identification of several key proteins involved in transporting chemical neurotransmitters into synaptic vesicles, cellular packets where they are stored before release into the synapse. Edwards is also studying alpha-synuclein, a neuronal protein that accumulates in the brains of patients with Parkinson’s disease, to understand how the protein interferes with chemical signaling by neurons.

Richard Locksley
Richard Locksley, MD

Locksley, who holds the Marion and Herbert Sandler Distinguished Professorship in Asthma Research and is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator, researches how innate and adaptive immunity work together in mice. Among other notable discoveries, Locksley’s lab has identified a rare type of immune cell called Group 2 innate lymphoid cells, or ILC2s, which normally play a role in tissue homeostasis, but have also been implicated in allergic diseases such as asthma. Recently, his team discovered that lung epithelial cells produce enzymes that break down chitin, a common environmental irritant, a process which may protect against age-related fibrotic lung disease.

Patrick O'Farrell
Patrick O’Farrell, PhD

O’Farrell is a professor of biochemistry and biophysics who studies a wide range of fundamental biological questions about how information stored in the genome gets translated to functional structures at the level of the living cell and organism. His research focuses on the biology of the cell-division cycle and evolutionary mysteries of the mitochondrial genome, using the fruit fly as an experimental system. O’Farrell’s impact on biology extends back almost 30 years: as a graduate student, he invented high-resolution two-dimensional gel electrophoresis, a way to separate proteins from one another in biological samples. This technique has allowed scientists to observe how specific gene mutations trigger subtle changes in the amounts of certain proteins produced by cells.

The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit institution that was established under a congressional charter signed by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863. It recognizes achievement in science by election to membership, and – with the National Academy of Engineering, National Academy of Medicine, and National Research Council – provides science, engineering, and health policy advice to the federal government and other organizations.

The new members will be formally inducted during next year’s NAS annual meeting. Further information can be found at the Academy’s website.