Donata Vercelli, MD, a Regents Professor at the University of Arizona and a professor of cellular and molecular medicine at the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Tucson, was recently named an American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Fellow.
Dr. Vercelli was named an AAAS Fellow for her contributions to the medical sciences field, specifically her research on asthma and airway diseases and the genetic and environmental mechanisms that control susceptibility to complex lung diseases. She is an associate director of the University of Arizona Health Sciences Asthma and Airway Disease Research Center, director of the Arizona Center for the Biology of Complex Diseases and a member of the university's BIO5 Institute.
“Receiving an honor of this scale, in a national arena, humbles me because it puts me in the company of giants,” Dr. Vercelli said. “I am especially proud of the fact that our group has made it to the cutting edge of a rapidly expanding, and crowded, field of inquiry – and has every intention to stay there.”
New AAAS Fellows have been elected annually since 1874 by the AAAS Council in recognition of their scientific achievements across disciplines. The 2022 class of AAAS Fellows was announced in January. Election as a fellow is a lifetime honor.
“When it became clear through research that growing up in microbe-rich environments can protect from allergic disease, I focused on ways to prevent allergies through microbial exposures,” Dr. Vercelli said. “This theme has led us to explore fundamental immunological paradigms which can be used to prevent serious, common diseases of children and adults.”
“We are very proud of Dr. Vercelli and all that she has accomplished in her groundbreaking research,” said College of Medicine – Tucson Dean Michael Abecassis, MD, MBA. “Very few scientists in the world are honored as AAAS Fellows, and I cannot think of anyone more deserving than Dr. Vercelli. She is truly advancing the science of medicine, and her work will no doubt benefit society for years to come.”
Dr. Vercelli said that being part of the UArizona Health Sciences has encouraged her to think boldly and innovatively.
“What has been special for us here is that we could take the road less traveled – that is, we dared to do experiments that no one thought could work,” Dr. Vercelli said. “But they did work – very well, in fact – and got us closer to understanding how we can achieve those allergy-protective effects that are the overarching goal of our quest.”
Dr. Vercelli earned her medical degree from the University of Florence, Italy, and trained in immunology at Boston Children’s Hospital/Harvard Medical School, where she was an assistant professor of pediatrics. She then served as director of the Molecular Immunoregulation Unit at San Raffaele Scientific Institute in Milan, Italy. She joined the College of Medicine – Tucson in 1999.
Dr. Vercelli was one of five UArizona faculty members named to the new class of AAAS Fellows.