School of Medicine

UC Irvine geneticist Emiliana Borrelli receives prestigious honors

UC Irvine molecular and cellular biologist Emiliana Borelli receives Italy's Golgi Prize.
The Golgi Foundation
Professor Emiliana Borelli holds the Golgi Medal with Professor Enrico Agabiti Rosei, president of Italy's Golgi Foundation.

Geneticist Emiliana Borrelli, PhD, has earned international recognition in her more than 30 years as a researcher at INSERM — the French equivalent of the National Institutes of Health — and with the UC Irvine School of Medicine.

This fall, the Chancellor’s Professor in microbiology & molecular genetics — who is renowned for her studies on the neurotransmitter dopamine and its role in brain diseases, movement disorders and addiction — received her greatest honors yet.

In October, she was awarded the title of Knight in the Order of the “Légion d’Honneur,” the most prestigious civilian honor given by the French government, during a ceremony held at the residence of Consul General of France in Los Angeles. She was praised for her remarkable career and outstanding contribution to reinforcing the scientific partnerships between France and the United States.

Jean-Marc Egly, INSERM research director, member of the French Académie des Sciences and officer of the order of the Legion d’Honneur, presided over the ceremony. Dr. Howard Federoff, UC Irvine's vice chancellor of health affairs, was also in attendance. Borrelli is among a select circle of scientist to hold this title, and the only one at UC Irvine.

Then in November, Borrelli was awarded the prestigious Camillo Golgi Medal in Neuroscience from the Golgi Foundation at a ceremony in Brescia, Italy. The prize was established in 2006 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Nobel Prize awarded to Camillo Golgi, a native of Brescia, together with Santiago Ramon y Cajal, in recognition of their work on the structure of the nervous system.

The Golgi Medal is issued annually to a neuroscientist and to an institution active in public health. It is considered one of the top honors in the neurosciences. Previous recipients of the award include Nobel Laureate Paul Greengard and neuroscientists Pierre J. Magistretti and Anders Bjorklund.

The Golgi Foundation cited Borrelli for her major contributions to the "understanding of dopamine mediated effects through the generation of animal models that allowed the study of the mechanisms underlying dopamine involvement in neurological and psychiatric disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease, schizophrenia and addiction."

Borrelli received her doctorate in neurobiology and neurosciences from the Federico II University in Naples in 1979. After working as an INSERM researcher, she joined UC Irvine in 2006. Since 2008, she has led the bilateral INSERM-UCI Research Unit, the only one of its kind outside Europe. She is also a member of UC Irvine’s Center for Epigenetics & Metabolism.