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Top University of Maryland School of Medicine Genomics Scientist Claire M. Fraser, PhD, Appointed President-Elect of American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)

January 08, 2019

Claire M. Fraser, PhD

Dr. Fraser, a Pioneer in Genomic Medicine, Named to Top Position at One of the World’s Leading Scientific Organizations

University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM) Dean E. Albert Reece, MD, PhD, MBA, announced today that Claire M. Fraser, PhD, a pioneer in the field of microbial genomics, who is the Dean’s Endowed Professor, Department of Medicine, and Director of the Institute for Genome Sciences (IGS), has been chosen as president-elect of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). AAAS is the world’s largest multidisciplinary scientific society and a leading publisher of cutting edge research through its Science family of journals.

Fraser is among the 114 officers selected during the 2018 election, AAAS announced today. She will begin her term on February 18 after the AAAS Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C., serving for one year as president-elect, one year as president and one year as chair of the AAAS Board of Directors.

“One of the most important roles of the AAAS President is to serve as an ardent spokesperson for science and to promote application of the scientific method to the solution of our most pressing problems,” said Dr. Fraser, citing such challenges as climate change, antimicrobial resistance and food, water and energy security. “Our ability to respond to these challenges has been hampered to a considerable extent by a lack of adequate funding, a tendency to fund ‘safer’ research projects, and a relative lack of public trust in science,” Dr. Fraser said, noting the increasing political attacks on science in the U.S. and abroad.

“Dr. Fraser is one of the pre-eminent scientists of our time in a field that is re-defining how we investigate and treat complex diseases,” said E. Albert Reece, MD, PhD, MBA, Executive Vice President for Medical Affairs, UM Baltimore, and the John Z. and Akiko K. Bowers Distinguished Professor, and Dean, University of Maryland School of Medicine. “In addition to her own groundbreaking discoveries in microbial genomics, she has mobilized a team of world-renowned investigators at IGS who are leading the nation in harnessing the power and potential of large-scale genomic research, and exploring new genomic applications in precision medicine, therapeutics, infectious diseases, virology and cancer research.”

Dr. Fraser in her lab in the new Health Sciences Research Facility IIIA pioneer and global leader in genomic medicine, Dr. Fraser is one of the most highly cited investigators in microbiology. In 1995, Dr. Fraser was the first to map the complete genetic code of a free-living organism—Haemophilus influenza—the bacterium that causes lower respiratory tract infections and meningitis in infants and young children. This achievement took place at the Institute for Genomic Research, where Dr. Fraser served as Director from 1998 until 2007.Her discovery forever changed microbiology and launched a new field of study—microbial genomics.

During that time, Dr. Fraser and her team also sequenced the bacteria behind syphilis and Lyme disease, and eventually the first plant genome and the first human-pathogenic parasite. She also helped identify the source of a deadly 2001 anthrax attack in one of the biggest investigations conducted by U.S. law enforcement. In 2007, Dr. Fraser launched the Institute for Genome Sciences (IGS) at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, which holds over 25 percent of the funding awarded by the Human Microbiome Project.

Issues like health, security and environmental protection “have no boundaries and can only be tackled by strong multi-disciplinary international collaborations,” Dr. Fraser said. “I am energized by the opportunity to help deliver the message that science matters to all of us.”

Between 1995 and 2008, Fraser was the most highly cited investigator worldwide in the field of microbiology, and her published work has received more than 50,000 citations.

Her current research interests center on the structure and function of the human gut microbiota. Dr. Fraser has authored more than 320 scientific publications, edited three books, and has served on committees of the National Science Foundation, Department of Energy, and National Institutes of Health. She is the recipient of numerous awards and honors, including the Promega Biotechnology Award and the E.O. Lawrence Award from the Department of Energy. Dr. Fraser uses her skills and position of leadership in genome sciences to improve the lives of women throughout the world. Dr. Fraser has more than $10 million in total award funding. As director of the Institute for Genome Sciences, she leads a team of scientists who are housed in the UM School of Medicine’s new 430,000 square foot Health Sciences Research Facility III (HSRF III).

Dr. Fraser graduated from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute with a Bachelor of Science degree in biology, and earned her PhD in pharmacology from the State University of New York at Buffalo. She was honored by AAAS as an elected Fellow in 2004 for her pioneering work in sequencing and analyzing microbial genomes. Her prior involvement with AAAS also includes serving on the AAAS Committee on Nominations from 2006 to 2008, on the AAAS Board of Directors from 2013 to 2017 and on the AAAS Section on Biological Sciences’ Electorate Nominating Committee from 2014 to 2017.

About the University of Maryland School of Medicine

Now in its third century, the University of Maryland School of Medicine was chartered in 1807 as the first public medical school in the United States. It continues today as one of the fastest growing, top-tier biomedical research enterprises in the world -- with 43 academic departments, centers, institutes, and programs; and a faculty of more than 3,000 physicians, scientists, and allied health professionals, including members of the National Academy of Medicine and the National Academy of Sciences, and a distinguished recipient of the Albert E. Lasker Award in Medical Research.  With an operating budget of more than $1 billion, the School of Medicine works closely in partnership with the University of Maryland Medical Center and Medical System to provide research-intensive, academic and clinically-based care for more than 1.2 million patients each year. The School has over 2,500 students, residents, and fellows, and more than $530 million in extramural funding, with most of its academic departments highly ranked among all medical schools in the nation in research funding. As one of the seven professional schools that make up the University of Maryland, Baltimore campus, the School of Medicine has a total workforce of nearly 7,000 individuals. The combined School and Medical System (“University of Maryland Medicine”) has an annual budget of nearly $6 billion and an economic impact more than $15 billion on the state and local community. The School of Medicine faculty, which ranks as the 8th highest among public medical schools in research productivity, is an innovator in translational medicine, with 600 active patents and 24 start-up companies. The School works locally, nationally, and globally, with research and treatment facilities in 36 countries around the world. Visit medschool.umaryland.edu/

About the American Association for the Advancement of Science

AAAS is the world's largest multidisciplinary scientific society and a leading publisher of cutting-edge research through its Science family of journals, AAAS has individual members in more than 91 countries around the globe. Membership is open to anyone who shares our goals and belief that science, technology, engineering, and mathematics can help solve many of the challenges the world faces today.

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