School of Medicine researcher Arthur L. Horwich, M.D., has been named Sterling Professor of Genetics and Pediatrics. The Sterling Professorships, endowed by John William Sterling of the Yale College Class of 1864, are among the highest honors bestowed on Yale faculty.

Horwich, a member of the medical faculty since 1984 and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator since 1990, studies how the chains of amino acids that make up proteins fold into the unique three-dimensional shapes needed for the proteins to successfully perform their tasks.

Horwich studies chaperonins, molecular machines that play a key role in the proper folding of proteins.

The chaperonins, present in all living cells, are part of a quality-control network that ensures that proteins are properly configured, and that poorly folded proteins are targeted for destruction. Clumps of unfolded or improperly folded proteins called aggregates have been associated with such conditions as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, “mad cow” disease and the paralyzing nerve disorder amytrophic lateral sclerosis.

Horwich received his B.A. and M.D. degrees from Brown University. He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2003, the Gairdner International Award in 2004, the 2006 Stein and Moore Award of the Protein Society and the Wiley Prize in the Biomedical Sciences in February of this year.