May 1, 2019—(BRONX, NY)—Ana Maria Cuervo, M.D., Ph.D., cell biologist and internationally recognized expert on the cellular process autophagy, has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences (NAS). Dr. Cuervo is professor of developmental and molecular biology, of anatomy and structural biology, and of medicine, co-director of the Institute for Aging Research, and holds the Robert and Renée Belfer Chair for the Study of Neurodegenerative Diseases at Einstein.
The NAS, a private, nonprofit institution established in 1863, announced its election of 100 new members and 25 foreign associates “in recognition of their distinguished and continuing achievements in original research.” Forty percent of the newly elected members are women, which the academy noted is the most ever elected in any one year.
“Dr. Cuervo’s election is a richly deserved honor,” said Gordon Tomaselli, M.D., the Marilyn and Stanley M. Katz Dean at Einstein. “She is a wonderfully respected and beloved member of our community and we are all delighted. We happily join her and her lab in celebrating this outstanding recognition.”
Dr. Cuervo is a leader in the field of autophagy, the cellular waste management process that is key to human health. Among her early major discoveries was finding that autophagy is highly selective, not random as previously thought. She and her collaborators discovered that specialized proteins guide old and damaged proteins to lysosomes for digestion, a process they dubbed “chaperone-mediated autophagy.”
Dr. Cuervo also discovered that autophagy slows with age. Her current research focuses on developing therapies to restore autophagy, thereby preventing the accumulation of toxic protein byproducts that lead to age-related conditions like Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, and cancer.
“It’s a good way to start the day,” Dr. Cuervo said of her election, which she at first didn’t believe was real. Sifting through hundreds of congratulatory emails from colleagues and collaborators around the world, Dr. Cuervo realized the news was true. “I’m very happy for the lab. The team really deserved it—they are the ones driving the work.”
She also thanked her mentors, Erwin Knecht, Ph.D., (Centro de Investigaciόn Prίncipe Felipe, Valencia, Spain) and the late J. Fred “Paulo” Dice (Tufts University School of Medicine), and her husband, Fernando Macian-Juan, M.D., Ph.D., professor of pathology at Einstein, for their support.
Dr. Cuervo is the 14th current or former faculty member elected to the academy, joining Robert Singer (2013), William Jacobs, Jr. (2013), Vern Schramm (2007), Susan Horwitz (2005), Stanley Nathenson (1988), Dominick Purpura (1983), Matthew Scharff (1982), Frank Lilly (1983), Michael V.L. Bennett (1981), Salome Waelsch (1979), Alex Novikoff (1974), Berta Scharrer (1967), and Harry Eagle (1963).
About Albert Einstein College of Medicine
Albert Einstein College of Medicine is one of the nation’s premier centers for research, medical education and clinical investigation. During the 2018-2019 academic year, Einstein is home to 711 M.D. students, 160 Ph.D. students, 107 students in the combined M.D./Ph.D. program, and 265 postdoctoral research fellows. The College of Medicine has more than 1,800 full-time faculty members located on the main campus and at its clinical affiliates. In 2018, Einstein received more than $172 million in awards from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). This includes the funding of major research centers at Einstein in aging, intellectual development disorders, diabetes, cancer, clinical and translational research, liver disease, and AIDS. Other areas where the College of Medicine is concentrating its efforts include developmental brain research, neuroscience, cardiac disease, and initiatives to reduce and eliminate ethnic and racial health disparities. Its partnership with Montefiore, the University Hospital and academic medical center for Einstein, advances clinical and translational research to accelerate the pace at which new discoveries become the treatments and therapies that benefit patients. Einstein runs one of the largest residency and fellowship training programs in the medical and dental professions in the United States through Montefiore and an affiliation network involving hospitals and medical centers in the Bronx, Brooklyn and on Long Island. For more information, please visit www.einstein.yu.edu, read our blog, follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook, and view us on YouTube.