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.”
I’m very happy for the lab. The team really deserved it—they are the ones driving the work.
Ana Maria Cuervo, M.D., Ph.D.
She also thanked her mentors, Erwin Knecht, Ph.D., (Centro de Investigación Príncipe 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).