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Elaine Fuchs awarded 2011 Albany Medical Center Prize

Elaine Fuchs, head of Rockefeller’s Laboratory of Mammalian Cell Biology and Development, was named a recipient of this year’s Albany Medical Center Prize in Medicine and Biomedical Research, at $500,000 the largest award in medicine and science in the United States. Fuchs, recognized for her contributions toward realizing the vast potential of stem cells to treat or reverse disease, shares the prize with James A. Thomson of the University of Wisconsin in Madison and Shinya Yamanaka of Kyoto University in Japan.

Fuchs’ work has focused on the biology of stem
cells. Specifically, Fuchs’ expertise involves skin and hair, both of which develop from a single type of skin stem cell. Her breakthroughs in understanding how these stem cells make skin and hair and how they repair wounds have led her laboratory to the genetic bases of human skin disorders, including cancers. Fuchs is widely credited with developing reverse genetics techniques that have made stem cell and genetic research easier for all scientists.

“In order to use stem cells to our advantage therapeutically, we need to understand how they operate on a very basic, molecular level,” she says.

“Elaine’s work has had an important impact on how we understand genetic diseases of the skin, and on what we know about how adult skin stem cells differentiate. Because of her research we are closer to being able to realize the therapeutic potential of stem cells,” says Marc Tessier-Lavigne, the university’s president. “I am very pleased to see her contributions recognized with this award.”

The Albany Medical Center Prize was established in 2000 by the late Morris “Marty” Silverman to honor scientists whose work has demonstrated significant outcomes that offer medical value of national or international importance. A $50 million gift commitment from the Marty and Dorothy Silverman Foundation provides for the prize to be awarded annually for 100 years. Previous recipients of the award include Ralph Steinman, head of the Laboratory of Cellular Physiology and Immunology, Joseph L. Goldstein, a trustee of Rockefeller University, and Arnold J. Levine, president of the university from 1998 to 2002.

A leading not-for-profit health care institution, the Albany Medical Center includes one of New York’s largest teaching hospitals, the Albany Medical Center Hospital, one of the nation’s oldest medical schools, Albany Medical College, and one of Albany’s most active fundraising organizations, the Albany Medical Center Foundation.