Wadsworth Distinguished Scientist Receives High Honors

Dr. Joachim Frank Named Member of National Academy of Sciences

ALBANY, NY, April 26, 2006 - Joachim Frank, Ph.D., Wadsworth Distinguished Scientist in Structural Biology, has joined an elite group of U.S. scientists by his election this week to the National Academy of Sciences (NAS). Dr. Frank, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator and chief of Wadsworth Center's Laboratory of Computational Biology and Molecular Imaging, was one of 72 new members elected at the organization's annual meeting.

Membership in the National Academy is considered one of the nation's highest honors for scientists and engineers, and recognizes their extraordinary achievements and contributions in original research. The NAS acts as an official adviser to the federal government on scientific matters. Today, there are approximately 2,000 members of the NAS.

Dr. Frank has been associated with the Department of Health's Wadsworth Center laboratories since 1975. A biophysicist by training, he has pioneered methods for the three-dimensional reconstruction of large biomolecules. He was the first to apply advanced statistical methods to the analysis of microscopy images, giving legitimacy to this branch of structural biology. His combination of cryo-electron microscopy and image processing captures molecular configurations in their native, dynamic states.

His own research on the ribosome has led to pivotal advances in the understanding of this protein synthesis machine. Information about the molecular architecture of this cellular factory has yielded insights from how the parasite that causes Chagas disease operates in host cells to how hepatitis C virus takes over a host cell's protein factory to produce viral rather than host proteins.

Dr. Frank was also named this week as a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Founded during the American Revolution, this international learned society brings to bear the scholarship of 4,000 innovative thinkers on compelling issues that face the nation and the world. Earlier honors bestowed on Dr. Frank include the Elizabeth Roberts Cole Award of the Biophysical Society; election as a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science; and appointment as a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator, the only such appointment at a state health department.

In addition, Dr. Frank holds several faculty appointments. He is a professor in the Department of Biomedical Sciences, School of Public Health, University at Albany; a visiting associate professor in the University's Department of Biological Sciences; and a research professor, Department of Cell Biology, New York University.

Dr. Frank joins fellow National Academy of Sciences member Marlene Belfort, Ph.D., a research scientist and director of Wadsworth Center's Division of Genetic Disorders who was elected to the NAS in 1999. Dr. Belfort studies mobile genetic elements known as introns, segments of DNA that interrupt genes and can disrupt the flow of genetic information.