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Four Stanford faculty elected to National Academy of Sciences

Four Stanford University faculty members have been elected to the National Academy of Sciences, the academy announced Tuesday, April 29. They are:

The academy, a private organization of scientists and engineers established in 1863 by an act of Congress, named 60 new American members and 15 foreign associates "in recognition of their distinguished and continuing achievements in original research." Election to the academy is considered one of the highest honors a scientist can achieve.

This brings the total number of Stanford faculty serving on the academy to 105, plus an additional four affiliated with the Hoover Institution.

Gerald R. Crabtree

Using the techniques of molecular biology, Crabtree has focused on tracking the cellular messages the immune system uses to marshal its forces against pathogens and other invaders. Along the way, working with chemist Stuart L. Schreiber of Harvard, he defined the molecules that turn on genes essential for T-cell activation and differentiation, including the gene for interleukin-2, which stimulates immune cells to grow and divide and attract others to the area.

Crabtree, who received his M.D. from Temple University, came to Stanford in 1985 from the National Institutes of Health, where he was a senior investigator.

His basic research has led to several findings that hold great promise for clinical applications. Crabtree and Schreiber found a way to install a biological "switch" in human cells that turns genes on and off as needed. The discovery may open a new way to apply gene therapy to human illnesses. In existing gene therapy, a patient's cells are implanted with a gene that tells them to make a protein that helps fight or resist disease. A current problem with gene therapy is that the implanted gene works continuously. But many genes in the body, such as the one for insulin, work only intermittently.

Crabtree's finding could ultimately allow specialists to regulate gene therapy with pills. One pill would turn on a protein-making gene, and then a second pill would turn it off. Stanford and Harvard have sold a license for using the "switch" therapeutically to Ariad Gene Therapeutics Inc.

David M. Kreps

Kreps is an economic theorist, whose fundamental and path-breaking work has been in the area of dynamic choice behavior and economics in which individuals make choices through time. He is a microeconomist who studies the behavior of individuals and companies. In the 1970s he helped build game theory into microeconomic theory in order to help model competitive interactions. He is particularly known for his work in non-cooperative game theory, especially for the notion of a sequential equilibrium, which he developed with Stanford Business School colleague Robert B. Wilson.

Kreps, who received both his master's and doctoral degrees from Stanford before joining the faculty in 1975, has received numerous grants and awards for his work, including the John Bates Clark Medal of the American Economic Association, presented biennially to an American economist under the age of 40 who has made contributions of the highest distinction to economic thought and knowledge.

Kreps has served on the editorial boards of a number of scholarly journals, including Econometrica. He was voted teacher of the year by MBA students in 1991 and his textbook, A Course in Microeconomic Theory, has been adopted at more than 100 institutions around the world.

Robert L. Metzenberg

Last year when Metzenberg retired after a distinguished 36-year career at the University of Wisconsin, he decided to come to Stanford so that he could collaborate with biological sciences Professors David Perkins and Charles Yanofsky. He received an undergraduate degree in chemistry from Pomona College and a doctorate in biochemistry from the California Institute of Technology. In 1983, he spent six months at Stanford as a visiting professor on a Guggenheim Fellowship. Now, a visiting professor once again, the biochemist continues to pursue the subject to which he has devoted his entire career: the genetic control of metabolism.

One of Metzenberg's major contributions in this area has been working out how an organism decides that it needs something and then takes appropriate action to get it. Working with red bread mold, Neurospora, he identified four genes that a cell uses to sense that a shortage exists (in this case of phosphorus), transmit the information to the nucleus and cause the nucleus to begin producing the enzymes required to rectify the shortage.

These days Metzenberg is working on more exotic issues. In one line of research he is trying to figure out why, during periods when there are two copies of every gene in the cell, some genes only work in pairs while others can work while isolated. In another project he is collaborating with Perkins to determine whether the multiple nuclei found in mold cells collaborate or work independently of one another.

Richard W. Tsien

Tsien came to Stanford in 1988 after 18 years in the Yale University School of Medicine to establish the then-new Department of Molecular and Cellular Physiology, which he chaired from 1988 to 1994.

Tsien's research has been critical to the current understanding of how ion channels are involved in cellular signaling in heart and brain cells. His leading work on discovering and delineating distinct types of voltage-gated calcium channels has proved important for understanding how calcium ions trigger muscle contractions and synaptic transmission, and has proved clinically relevant for hypertension treatment, for pain amelioration and for determining the causes of migraine and cerebellar ataxia. Tsien's work has also provided clues to the workings of long-term potentiation, a leading system for unraveling the cellular mechanisms of learning and memory in the brain.

Tsien has been director of the Silvio Conte ­ National Institute of Mental Health Center for Neuroscience Research at Stanford since 1991. He is also a member of the National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medicine. For his efforts in creating a new course linking advances in molecular genetics to physiology, Tsien has twice won the Kaiser Award for Outstanding and Innovative Teaching, in 1991 and 1995. He co-authored the classic reference Electric Current Flow in Excitable Cells while he was a Rhodes scholar at Oxford University.


By David F. Salisbury