Yale School of Medicine Appoints Joseph Schlessinger, Formerly of NYU, Pharmacology Chair

Yale University School of Medicine today announced the appointment of Joseph Schlessinger as the school’s new chair of Pharmacology.

Schlessinger, most recently professor, chair of pharmacology and director of the Skirball Institute of Biomolecular Medicine at New York University (NYU), comes to Yale with significant research experience in the area of signal transduction-all the circuits inside the machines that allow cells to communicate with the environment. He plans to cultivate signal transduction research at Yale.

“Dr. Schlessinger is an exemplary researcher and a distinguished leader in pharmacology and drug discovery,” said Yale University School of Medicine Dean David Kessler, M.D., “We are thrilled that he has brought his world class scientific skills and vast knowledge of pharmacology to Yale.”

A physical chemist, Schlessinger said drug discovery is much more knowledge-based than in the past and plans to implement a new way to discover drugs at Yale. “You have to know the basic processes or molecular mechanisms of a drug in order to improve it,” Schlessinger said. “My focus is not so much on drug discovery, but on defining molecular pathways inside the cell. Many of these pathways become impaired in diseases and fixing these could lead to improved targets.”

Schlessinger added, “Signal transduction has an impact on many other departments, such as neurobiology, immunology and microbiology, allowing for exciting multidisciplinary research opportunities.”

Schlessinger plans to recruit scientists who work in structural, molecular and cellular biology to create a new generation of pharmacologists.

“My goal is to make Yale one of the main centers of signal transduction in about five years,” said Schlessinger, who serves on the advisory boards of journals such as Cell, EMBO Journal, Molecular Cell, Protein Engineering, Molecular Cell Biology and Journal of Cell Biology.

After receiving his Ph.D. in chemistry from The Weizmann Institute in Rehovot, Israel in 1974, he was a Postdoctoral Associate at the School of Applied Engineering Physics and Department of Physics at Cornell University from 1974 to 1976. He then became Visiting Scientist at the Immunology Branch of the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health. In 1978 he was appointed Associate Professor in the Department of Chemical Immunology at the Weizmann Institute of Science. He later became the Ruth and Leonard Simon Professor of Cancer Research at the Institute and was Research Director of Rorer Biotech, Inc. for five years. He joined NYU in 1990 and founded Sugen, Inc. in 1991.

Schlessinger has published research articles in numerous journals and delivered many special lectures. Some of his many prizes and honors include the Sara Leedy Prize, The Hestrin Prize, the Drew-Ciba Prize, The Distinguished Service Award, Miami Nature Biotechnology; The Taylor Prize and Election to the National Academy of Sciences and to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

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Karen N. Peart: karen.peart@yale.edu, 203-432-1326