Rancho Santa Fe scientist elected to National Academy of Medicine

Elizabeth Winzeler
Elizabeth Winzeler, professor in the Division of Host Microbe Systems and Therapeutics in the Department of Pediatrics at UC San Diego School of Medicine.

Rancho Santa Fe’s Elizabeth Winzeler, a leader in anti-malarial drug development, was recognized by her peers with one of the highest honors in health and medicine—she was recently elected to the National Academy of Medicine.

Winzeler, PhD, is a professor in the division of host microbe systems and therapeutics in the department of pediatrics at UC San Diego School of Medicine and an adjunct professor in the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences at UC San Diego.

She was elected to the National Academy alongside JoAnn Trejo, professor in the department of pharmacology at UC San Diego School of Medicine and assistant vice chancellor for UC San Diego Health Sciences Faculty Affairs.

“We are extremely proud of Drs. Trejo and Winzeler, not only for their accomplishments in advancing our understanding of human health, but also their significant contributions to developing health leaders on our campus and across the country,” said David A. Brenner, MD, vice chancellor of health sciences at UC San Diego in a news release. “They both represent the very best of UC San Diego’s culture of innovation, creativity and collaboration, and I have no doubt they will inspire the next generation of scientists.”

Winzeler was raised in Reno, Nev. She earned her bachelor’s degree in natural sciences and art at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Ore. She worked as a computer programmer for several years before returning to graduate school, obtaining a master’s degree in biophysics and biochemistry from Oregon State University. She later earned a PhD in developmental biology at Stanford University, where she also received postdoctoral training.

According to the news release, Winzeler is known for her early contribution to the field of functional genomics. Concerned about global health disparities and the alarming rise in the number of worldwide malaria cases in the early 2000s, she shifted her research focus to malaria, beginning with functional genomics and then moving to drug discovery.

Working previously in a joint position between the Scripps Research and the Genomics Institute of the Novartis Research Foundation, her group developed high-throughput chemical screening methods that ultimately led to the discovery of numerous novel drug candidates that have been developed into new antimalarial medicines, which in combination with another drug recently successfully completed Phase IIB clinical trials.

Winzeler also developed forward genetic methods that have led to the discovery and validation of numerous antimalarial drug targets. At UC San Diego, she worked with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to establish what has now become the Malaria Drug Accelerator, a consortium of 18 laboratories working to prime the early stages of the drug development pipeline with a goal of creating next-generation medicines.

At UC San Diego, Winzeler has also become interested in identifying institutional barriers that prevent female scientists from reaching their full potential.

“I credit my success to having great mentors and exceptionally broad molecular biology training that allowed me to adapt to changing circumstances and tackle health problems as they emerge,” Winzeler said in the news release.