Yale’s Richard Lifton to become president of Rockefeller University

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Richard Lifton (Photo by Terry Dagradi)

Dr. Richard Lifton, Sterling Professor of Genetics, chair of the Department of Genetics, and investigator for the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, will leave Yale to become president of Rockefeller University.

The researcher will take up his new post on Sept. 1, after a 23-year career at Yale.

Lifton, a physician-scientist and one of the pre-eminent geneticists in the world, pioneered the use of genetics and genomics to understand fundamental mechanisms underlying human diseases. His work on hypertension, a condition that afflicts 1 billion people, showed that rare mutations causing extreme forms of high and low blood pressure all alter salt reabsorption in the kidney. This work has provided the scientific basis for public health efforts worldwide to prevent and treat hypertension by altering salt balance. He also developed methods for rapidly and inexpensively sequencing all the genes in the genome, and has led the use of this technology, called exome sequencing, for the discovery of disease-related genes and establishing clinical diagnoses of genetic diseases.

“In his more than two decades at Yale, Rick Lifton has built a distinguished career as an outstanding scientist and an exceptional leader,” said Dr. Robert Alpern, dean of the Yale School of Medicine. “While his departure is a major loss for the School of Medicine, this is a wonderful opportunity both for Rick and for The Rockefeller University. Rick will always be a Yalie, and while I will miss him greatly, I am extremely happy for him as he ascends to this prestigious position.”

Lifton founded and served as executive director of the Yale Center for Genome Analysis on the West Campus, and has been one of the principal investigators for the Yale Center for Mendelian Genomics, part of a national effort that has identified more than 740 genes that contribute to inherited disease.  He has also used genome sequencing to identify mutations that cause congenital heart disease.

In addition to his duties as genetics chair, Lifton has been an active contributor to national scientific organizations, having served on the governing councils of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Medicine, as well as on the Advisory Council to the Director of the National Institutes of Health. In 2015, he was named co-chair of the working group charged with planning the President’s Precision Medicine Initiative working group. 

He has received many awards for his research. He is an elected member of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Medicine, and the American Academy of Arts and Science. In 2014, he received a $3 million Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences, created by top Silicon Valley entrepreneurs who honored his work on hypertension.