Krzysztof Palczewski, UCI’s Irving H. Leopold Professor of Ophthalmology and a professor of physiology & biophysics
With the election of Krzysztof Palczewski, UCI’s Irving H. Leopold Chair in Ophthalmology and a professor of physiology & biophysics, the university has five faculty members in the National Academy of Medicine. UCI Health

Irvine, Calif., Oct. 21, 2019 — Krzysztof Palczewski, the Irving H. Leopold Chair in Ophthalmology and a professor of physiology & biophysics at the University of California, Irvine, has been elected to the National Academy of Medicine, one of the highest distinctions accorded to professionals in the medical sciences, healthcare and public health. He is one of 100 new U.S.-based members announced today.

The National Academy of Medicine recognizes leaders in diverse fields including health and medicine; the natural, social and behavioral sciences; and beyond. Through its domestic and global initiatives, the academy works to address critical issues in health, medicine and related policy and inspire positive action across sectors.

“Congratulations to Dr. Palczewski on this exceptional achievement which illustrates the academic excellence of UCI faculty,” said Enrique Lavernia, UCI provost and executive vice chancellor. “With the election of Dr. Palczewski to the National Academy of Medicine, UCI is now home to 42 members of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, 35 members of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, nine members of the National Academy of Inventors, and four members of the National Academy of Education.”

“I feel deeply honored by the National Academy of Medicine election,” Palczewski said. “Such recognition reflects on our colleagues, collaborators and trainees who contributed to impactful research on eye diseases. Clearly, this distinction further encourages us to give our very best efforts in the next stage of our research: developing therapeutics against blinding diseases.”

The internationally renowned chemist, pharmacologist and vision scientist has made critical additions to the understanding of the molecular basis of age-related macular degeneration and inherited retinal degeneration, illuminating the path toward the creation of new vision treatments.

Palczewski has studied the pharmacology of vision for more than 30 years, and his work has had a tremendous impact on efforts to restore vision in people suffering from retinitis pigmentosa and other congenital mutations that result in blindness.

He is best known for discovering the structure, folding and binding properties of rhodopsin, a light-sensitive photoreceptor protein. His findings profoundly increased comprehension of the molecular basis of vision and the structure of photoreceptor cells in the retina. They also contributed to the ability to originate new molecular therapies for age-related macular degeneration and other retinopathies.

Palczewski came to UCI last year from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland to establish the Center for Translational Vision Research at the Gavin Herbert Eye Institute, which is part of the UCI School of Medicine. There, he collaborates with a team of noted vision scientists to maximize opportunities to translate insights from basic science investigations into clinical treatments.

He holds 29 issued and nine pending patents and has received several prestigious accolades, including the 2015 Bressler Prize in Vision Science and the inaugural 2014 Beckman-Argyros Award in Vision Research.

In addition, Palczewski is the only person to have won both the Cogan Award (1996) for the most promising young vision scientist and the Friedenwald Award (2014) for continuously outstanding ophthalmology research from the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology. His work has been cited more than 46,000 times, with an h-index impact factor of 115, according to Google Scholar.

Palczewski earned a Ph.D. in biochemistry at the Wrocław University of Science and Technology in Poland.

About the University of California, Irvine: Founded in 1965, UCI is the youngest member of the prestigious Association of American Universities. The campus has produced three Nobel laureates and is known for its academic achievement, premier research, innovation and anteater mascot. Led by Chancellor Howard Gillman, UCI has more than 36,000 students and offers 222 degree programs. It’s located in one of the world’s safest and most economically vibrant communities and is Orange County’s second-largest employer, contributing $5 billion annually to the local economy. For more on UCI, visit

Media access: Radio programs/stations may, for a fee, use an on-campus ISDN line to interview UCI faculty and experts, subject to availability and university approval. For more UCI news, visit Additional resources for journalists may be found at