PHILADELPHIA — J. Kevin Foskett, PhD, the Isaac Ott Professor of Physiology in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, has been named the chair of the department of Physiology, effective immediately. Foskett served as Vice Chairman of the Department since 2008.
Foskett has been honored by the National Institutes of Health with one of the highly prized MERIT (Method to Extend Research in Time) Awards, established to give creative scientists long-term support. In addition, he is an accomplished teacher who has been recognized for his ability to explain complicated material to his students.
He received the Jane M. Glick Graduate Student Teaching Award in 2010. One of the letters of support for the award enthusiastically described him as “the founder” of the “Cell Biology and Biochemistry” course. Former students and trainees noted his skill at developing his students into independent experts in the field. Another supporting letter called him “an outstanding mentor and an outstanding scientist” who has also been a leader in the Biomedical Graduate Studies program.
A former President of the Society of General Physiologists, Foskett has been a reviewer for both granting agencies (such as the NIH and the National Science Foundation) and professional journals (such as Cell and the Journal of Clinical Investigation). He has also been a member of the Board of Scientific Councilors of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. He was an associate editor of the American Journal of Physiology and served on the journal’s editorial advisory board for 10 years. Currently, he is on the editorial boards of Physiological Reviews and Journal of General Physiology. In addition, Dr. Foskett is in great demand as a speaker, having presented at the NIH and American universities and in Canada, China, France, Japan, Italy, Sweden, Portugal, Belgium and Chile.
His honors and awards include a University of California Regents Fellowship and an NIH Postdoctoral Award. He has also been a Canadian Cystic Fibrosis Foundation Scholar.
Earlier in 2013, Foskett and colleagues from both Penn and elsewhere described in Nature how cells transmit taste information to the brain for three of the five primary taste types. They determined that ATP – the body’s main source of fuel – is released as the neurotransmitter from sweet, bitter, and umami (or savory) taste bud cells. In 2012, he led a team that discovered essential mechanisms that regulate the flow of calcium into mitochondria, reported in Cell and Nature Cell Biology. This work built upon a cover article in Cell in 2010 in which his team described a previously unknown biological mechanism in cells that prevents them from cannibalizing themselves for fuel. The control system that regulates ATP is an ongoing shuttling of calcium to the mitochondria from another cell component, the endoplasmic reticulum. These findings have implications for a wide variety of physiological processes and diseases.
Foskett was recruited to Penn Medicine in 1995. Earlier, he received his B.S. degree from Duke University and went on to earn his master’s degree in marine biology at the University of South Carolina. At the University of California, Berkeley, he earned his doctorate and was a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Zoology and Cancer Research. After serving as a postdoctoral fellow and a staff fellow at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute in Bethesda, Md., Foskett was appointed as Principal Investigator in the Physiology Department at the Armed Forces Radiobiology Research Institute. From 1988 to 1995, he was Scientist and then Senior Scientist in the Division of Cell Biology, Research Institute, at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children. For the last two years there, he was also Associate Professor of Physiology at the University of Toronto.
Penn Medicine is one of the world's leading academic medical centers, dedicated to the related missions of medical education, biomedical research, and excellence in patient care. Penn Medicine consists of the Raymond and Ruth Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania (founded in 1765 as the nation's first medical school) and the University of Pennsylvania Health System, which together form a $5.3 billion enterprise.
The Perelman School of Medicine has been ranked among the top five medical schools in the United States for the past 18 years, according to U.S. News & World Report's survey of research-oriented medical schools. The School is consistently among the nation's top recipients of funding from the National Institutes of Health, with $373 million awarded in the 2015 fiscal year.
The University of Pennsylvania Health System's patient care facilities include: The Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and Penn Presbyterian Medical Center -- which are recognized as one of the nation's top "Honor Roll" hospitals by U.S. News & World Report -- Chester County Hospital; Lancaster General Health; Penn Wissahickon Hospice; and Pennsylvania Hospital -- the nation's first hospital, founded in 1751. Additional affiliated inpatient care facilities and services throughout the Philadelphia region include Chestnut Hill Hospital and Good Shepherd Penn Partners, a partnership between Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Network and Penn Medicine.
Penn Medicine is committed to improving lives and health through a variety of community-based programs and activities. In fiscal year 2015, Penn Medicine provided $253.3 million to benefit our community.