Douglas C. Wallace, a pioneering UC Irvine genetics researcher whose achievements in mitochondrial medicine are leading to new treatments for chronic diseases like cancer and diabetes, has been elected to the prestigious Institute of Medicine.

Election to the institute, established in 1970 by the National Academy of Sciences, is considered one of the highest honors in health and medicine, as it recognizes outstanding professional accomplishment and commitment to service.

In a career that began in the early 1970s and took him to Yale, Stanford and Emory universities before UCI, Wallace has become world-renowned for advancing understanding of the role of mitochondrial genetic variation in human evolution and disease, thus establishing the field of mitochondrial medicine. Existing in every cell, mitochondria process oxygen and convert food substances into energy for essential cell functions. Wallace has shown that defects in mitochondrial processes can cause a multitude of problems and contribute to the development of chronic and inherited diseases.

“The induction of Doug Wallace into the Institute of Medicine is truly well-deserved,” said Dr. Ralph V. Clayman, interim dean of medicine at UCI. “His ongoing studies in mitochondrial genetics are groundbreaking and have tremendous implications for the future prevention and treatment of a whole host of inherited diseases.”

Wallace came to UCI in 2002 as the Donald Bren Professor of Molecular Medicine and founded the Center for Molecular & Mitochondrial Medicine & Genetics. The center brings together basic scientists, medical researchers and patients to determine causes and generate cures for metabolic and degenerative diseases, cancer and aging.

“I am deeply honored and grateful to be recognized for our work on diseases resulting from mitochondrial dysfunction,” said Wallace, who was elected to the esteemed National Academy of Sciences in 1995. “The new concepts of mitochondrial medicine are revolutionizing the way we understand and treat common diseases.”

The Institute of Medicine is a national resource for independent, scientifically informed analyses and recommendations on health issues. Wallace is UCI’s sixth institute member, and he joins Nobel laureate F. Sherwood Rowland as the only UCI faculty members elected to both the National Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Medicine.

“Doug Wallace is a passionate and visionary scientist. His knowledge of all aspects of mitochondria — from evolution to molecular genetics to aging and disease — is vast and comprehensive,” said Susan V. Bryant, vice chancellor of research at UCI. “In being recognized by the highest scientific body in the nation, he brings great honor and distinction to UCI by his presence.”

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