Don W. Cleveland Awarded 2018 Breakthrough Prize
On December 3, 2017, Don W. Cleveland, PhD, Distinguished Professor of Cellular and Molecular Medicine, Neurosciences and Medicine and chair of the Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine, was honored with the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences for his work, "elucidating the molecular pathogenesis of a type of inherited ALS, including the role of glia in neurodegeneration, and for establishing antisense oligonucleotide therapy in animal models of ALS and Huntington’s disease.”
Dr. Cleveland has made seminal contributions to the understanding of how brain cells grow during normal mammalian development and how defects in those mechanisms lead to inherited neurodegenerative diseases, such as ALS and Huntington’s. Breaking with the mainstream belief in the field, Cleveland discovered that the genetic mutations that cause these diseases affect not just neurons, but the entire neighborhood of brain cells. He was the first to purify tau, the protein that mis-assembles and accumulates in Alzheimer’s disease and chronic brain injury, where it correlates with cognitive decline.
Based on these fundamental findings, Cleveland and his colleagues developed a ground-breaking approach to treating neurodegenerative diseases: designer DNA drugs that reduce synthesis of the toxic proteins produced by gene mutations or increase production from poorly expressed genes. This technology has already proven successful — it’s the underlying principle behind Ionis Pharmaceuticals’ FDA-approved therapeutic for spinal muscular atrophy, an inherited muscle wasting condition that was previously always fatal. Now, kids who were completely immobilized are walking. Similar designer DNA drugs are currently in clinical trials for the treatment of ALS, Huntington’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease.
Marilyn G. Farquhar Receives 2017 Revelle Medal
On November 17, 2017, Marilyn G. Farquhar, PhD, distinguished professor emerita of cellular and molecular medicine, was awarded the 2017 UC San Diego Revelle Medal, the highest honor bestowed by the Chancellor to current and former faculty members to recognize sustained, distinguished, and extraordinary service to the UCSD community, as well as a record of accomplishment that advances the UC San Diego mission of exceptional teaching, research, service and patient care.
Dr. Farquhar entered the field of science when female graduate students were rare. Today, her discoveries are part of the canon of cell biology. She joined UC San Diego in 1990 and served as the school’s first chair of the Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine. She helped build the UC San Diego School of Medicine to become a top-ranked, national program. Farquhar is a founding member and former president of The American Society for Cell Biology. Her dedication to teaching and mentorship has made a powerful impact on the physicians and medical scientists of tomorrow.
After stints at the University of California, San Francisco, The Rockefeller University—where she became the first woman to be named a professor of cell biology—and Yale University, Farquhar joined UC San Diego in 1990, with her husband, famed physician-scientist George Palade. Farquhar served as the school’s first chair of the Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine. She helped build the UC San Diego School of Medicine to become the top-ranked program it is today—the nation’s 18th best research-intensive medical school, according to U.S. News World Report.
Farquhar’s research accomplishments have been recognized by many prestigious awards including the E.B. Wilson Medal of the American Society of Cell Biology, the Distinguished Scientist Medal of the Electron Microscopy Society of America, the Homer Smith Award of the American Society of Nephrology and the Rous-Whipple Award of the American Society for Investigative Pathology. She is also well known for her dedication to teaching and mentorship, making a great impact in training the next generation of outstanding physicians and medical scientists.