Joseph Heitman, MD, PhD, receives Distinguished Mycologist Award

The Mycological Society of America (MSA) has selected Joseph Heitman, MD, PhD, James B. Duke Professor and chair of the Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology (MGM), as a recipient of the 2021 Distinguished Mycologist Award.

The award is given annually to an individual who has established an outstanding mycological career and is one of the highest awards bestowed by the MSA. Mycology is the branch of biology concerned with the study of fungi. Nominees are evaluated based on the quality, originality, and quantity of their published research, and on the basis of service to the MSA or the field of mycology in general.  Dr. Heitman was previously honored by the MSA as the Karling Lecture at the annual meeting held in Fairbanks, Alaska in 2011.

Heitman, who has served as chair of the department of MGM since 2009, studies model and pathogenic fungi to address unsolved problems in biology and medicine. His pioneering research using the model budding yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae led to the discovery of FKBP12 and TOR as the targets of rapamycin, a drug now widely used in organ transplantation, cancer chemotherapy, and interventional cardiology.

Heitman’s research studying the pathogenic fungus Cryptococcus led to the discovery of a previously unknown form of sexual reproduction in the fungus known as unisexual reproduction. He has a long-standing interest in fungal genetics and evolution and has been a member of the MSA since 2001.

“We are honored that Joe is a member of our Society and recognize his outstanding and seminal contributions to fungal genetics and the global mycological community,” said Marc Anthony Cubeta, professor and associate director of the Center for Integrated Fungal Research at North Carolina State University and past president of the MSA. “Joe is certainly very deserving of this prestigious award as his excellence in research and passionate commitment to mentoring students and post-doctoral scientists embodies our core mission of advancing and promoting the science of mycology through education and research.”