The German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina has elected Joseph Heitman, MD, PhD, James B. Duke Professor and chair of the Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology (MGM) as one of its members. The German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina comprises 1,600 Academy members from over 30 countries, all researchers with outstanding expertise in their respective fields.
Heitman has a long-standing interest in fungal genetics, genomics, and evolution, and virulence, treatment, and drug resistance of fungal pathogens. He studies model and pathogenic fungi to address unsolved problems in biology and medicine. His pioneering research with the model budding yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae led to the discovery of FKBP12 and TOR as the targets of rapamycin, a drug now widely utilized in organ transplantation, cancer chemotherapy, and interventional cardiology.
Heitman also studies the pathogenic fungus Cryptococcus which led to the discovery of a previously unknown form of sexual reproduction known as unisexual reproduction, with implications for pathogen emergence, production of infectious propagules, generation of genetic diversity, and origins and evolution of sexual reproduction.