The University of Virginia School of Medicine’s Mariano A. Garcia-Blanco, MD, PhD, will be inducted this weekend into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, one of the country’s oldest and most prestigious honorary societies, in recognition of his exceptional scientific contributions.
The society was founded in 1780 – during the Revolutionary War – by John Adams, John Hancock and other founding fathers who wanted to “cultivate every art and science which may tend to advance the interest, honor, dignity and happiness of a free, independent and virtuous people.” Since then, the society has recognized excellence in every field of human endeavor. Inductees include Albert Einstein, Benjamin Franklin, Charles Darwin and Madeleine Albright putting Garcia-Blanco in esteemed company.
“Selection to the American Academy humbled me and reminded me of how much we still have to do to deserve this honor,” Garcia-Blanco said. “My group and I will continue our work at the interface of RNA biology and immunology and hope to apply our fundamental research for the common good.”
Garcia-Blanco is F. Palmer Weber Medical Research Professor and Chair of the School of Medicine’s Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Cancer Biology. He is a leading researcher into how genetic material called RNA influences immunity to disease. He made headlines in June for discovering a key factor that determines our risk for multiple sclerosis – advancing efforts to better treat and prevent the often debilitating disease. Shortly before that, his team made an important discovery about the transmission of dangerous dengue viruses, revealing how the saliva of carrier mosquitoes can thwart the human immune system and make it easier for people to become infected.
Garcia-Blanco received his MD and PhD in molecular biophysics and biochemistry from Yale after completing his undergraduate degree at Harvard. He began his career at Duke University, spending 24 years there and establishing a second laboratory at the Duke-NUS Medical School in Singapore.
While at Duke, Garcia-Blanco co-founded the Duke Center for RNA Biology and founded the Programme in Emerging Infectious Diseases at Duke-NUS. He joined University of Texas Medical Branch in 2014, strengthening the program there until joining the UVA School of Medicine last year.
Garcia-Blanco also has co-founded several biotechnology companies, including Intronn, one of the first companies to specialize in RNA treatments, in the mid 1990s.
Garcia-Blanco has been funded continuously by the National Institutes of Health since 1991 – more than 30 years. He has published more than 190 scientific articles, and he has mentored more than 60 doctoral and postdoctoral trainees.
Garcia-Blanco is a member of many prominent societies, including the Association of American Physicians. He is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and a fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology.
He will be inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences at a ceremony this weekend in Cambridge, Mass.
“We are celebrating a depth of achievements in a breadth of areas,” academy President David Oxtoby said in announcing Garcia-Blanco’s class of inductees. “These individuals excel in ways that excite us and inspire us at a time when recognizing excellence, commending expertise and working toward the common good is absolutely essential to realizing a better future.”
Article written by Josh Barney, Deputy Public Information Officer, UVA Health. Contact Josh about this story or to share your own research.