Pioneering Investigator on Mitochondrial Energy Joining CHOP


Douglas Wallace, PhD, will join The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia this July to continue his pioneering, world-renowned research on the role of mitochondrial energy in human health and disease.

Dr. Wallace comes to CHOP from the University of California – Irvine, where he heads the Center for Molecular and Mitochondrial Medicine and Genetics. 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.

Dr. Wallace will continue his groundbreaking research at CHOP as the Michael and Charles Barnett Chair in Pediatric Mitochondrial Medicine and Metabolic Disease and will direct a new Center of Emphasis at CHOP Research – the Center for Mitochondrial and Epigenomic Medicine. He will also hold a faculty appointment in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.

Dr. Wallace will be the first CHOP investigator who is a member in the prestigious National Academy of Sciences, an honor society representing distinguished scholars in scientific and engineering research. Dr. Wallace has also been elected to the Institute of Medicine, one of the highest professional honors for biomedical researchers, and is an elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

“The addition of Dr. Wallace and his extraordinary research program, combined with CHOP’s dedication to translational research, will help advance the understanding of – and potential treatment for – a multitude of disorders and diseases,” says Philip Johnson, MD, CHOP’s Chief Scientific Officer. “His decision to join our institution is testimony to CHOP Research’s reputation as the preeminent worldwide leader in translational pediatric research.”