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Douglas C. Wallace, PhD
Douglas C. Wallace
Director, Center for Mitochondrial and Epigenomic Medicine

Dr. Wallace is a geneticist and evolutionary biologist who founded the field of mitochondrial medicine 40 years ago. He investigates the role of mitochondria in human evolution, health, and disease.



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More than 35 years ago, Dr. Wallace and his colleagues founded the field of human mitochondrial genetics. The mitochondria are the cellular power plants, organelles that generate most of the cell's energy. The mitochondria also contain their own DNA, the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), which encodes the wiring diagram for the cell's power plants. Dr. Wallace showed that the mtDNA is inherited exclusively from the mother and that genetic alterations in the mtDNA can result is a wide range of metabolic and degenerative diseases as well as being important in cancer and aging.

One of his seminal contributions has been to use mtDNA variation to reconstruct the origin and ancient migrations of women. These studies revealed that humans arose in Africa approximately 200,000 years ago, that women left Africa about 65,000 years ago to colonize Eurasia, and from Siberia, they crossed the Bering land bridge to populate the Americas. Studies on the paternally-inherited Y chromosome showed that men went along too.

Education and Training

BS, Cornell University (Genetics, Developmental Biology), 1968

MPhil, Yale University (Microbiology and Human Genetics), 1972

PhD, Yale University (Microbiology and Human Genetics), 1975

Titles and Academic Titles

Director, Center for Mitochondrial and Epigenomic Medicine

Michael and Charles Barnett Endowed Chair in Pediatric Mitochondrial Medicine and Metabolic Diseases

Professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine

Professional Memberships

American Society for Microbiology, 1968-

The American Association for the Advancement of Science, 1972-

Society for Inherited Metabolic Disorders, 1989-

American Society of Human Genetics, 1993-

National Academy of Sciences, 1995-

International Human Genome Organization, 1999-

American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 2004-

Autism Speaks, 2009-

Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, 2009-

Professional Awards

William Allan Award, American Society of Human Genetics, 1994

Member of American Academy for Microbiology, 1995

Passano Award 2000 for Mitochondrial Genetics, 2000

Docteur Honoris Causa, Universite Victor Segalen Bordeaux 2, 2000

Metropolitan Life Foundation Award for Medical Research in Alzheimer's Disease, 2000

Fellow, American College of Medical Genetics, 2002

Donald Bren Professor of Biological Sciences and Molecular Medicine, Univ. of California, Irvine 2004

Robert J. & Claire Pasarow Award for Contributions to Cardiovascular Disease, 2006

Excellence in Teaching Award, University of California, Irvine, School of Medicine, 2006

Albert Einstein Visiting Professorship, Chinese Academy of Sciences, 2006

Gruber Genetics Prize, Gruber Foundation, 2012

American College of Physicians Award for Outstanding Work in Science as Related to Medicine, 2013

Vanguard Award for Life Time Achievement, United Mitochondrial Disease Foundation, 2015

Awarded Docteur Honoris Causa, University of Angers, France, 2015

Elected Italian Natnl. Acad. of Sci. (Accademia Nazionale delle Scienze detta dei XL), 2015