E Pluribus Unum: The Fungal Kingdom as a Rosetta Stone for Biology and Medicine.
THE Genetics Society of America's (GSA's) Edward Novitski Prize recognizes a single experimental accomplishment or a body of work in which an exceptional level of creativity, and intellectual ingenuity, has been used to design and execute scientific experiments to solve a difficult problem in genetics. The 2019 recipient is Joseph Heitman, who is recognized for his work on fungal pathogens of humans and for ingenious experiments using yeast to identify the molecular targets of widely used immunosuppressive drugs. The latter work, part of Heitman's postdoctoral research, proved to be a seminal contribution to the discovery of the conserved Target of Rapamycin (TOR) pathway. In his own research group, a recurring theme has been the linking of fundamental insights in fungal biology to medically important problems. His studies have included defining fungal mating-type loci, including their evolution and links to virulence, and illustrating convergent transitions from outcrossing to inbreeding in fungal pathogens of plants and animals. He has led efforts to establish new genetic and genomic methods for studying pathogenesis in Cryptococcus species. Heitman's group also discovered unisexual reproduction, a novel mode of fungal reproduction with implications for pathogen evolution and the origins of sexual reproduction.
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