Skip to main contentSkip to breadcrumbsSkip to sub navSkip to doormat


Elly Tanaka elected to the National Academy of Sciences (NAS)

03 May 2023

IMP Senior Scientist Elly Tanaka was elected to the US National Academy of Sciences (NAS). The National Academy of Sciences announced the news today, putting Tanaka among 120 newly elected members and 23 international members in recognition of “their distinguished and continuing achievements in original research”. IMP emeritus director Kim Nasmyth is among the newly elected international members. 

Elly Tanaka’s election to the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) is a distinction for her ground-breaking research into the molecular and cellular foundations of regeneration, in particular of limbs and spinal cords in the Mexican salamander species axolotl. Tanaka developed new methods to study regeneration, which had previously been largely inaccessible on the molecular level.

“It is an exceptional honour to be elected to the NAS, and it marks an important recognition for regeneration as a research field,” says Tanaka. “I would like to thank and acknowledge all of my mentors, lab members, collaborators and colleagues who have contributed to my scientific journey. I spent the past 25 years of my career in Europe, and in addition to the scientific merit, I appreciate the NAS membership because it is a strong endorsement of the research community from my native country.”

Elly Tanaka was born in Boston (United States) and studied biochemistry at Harvard University before doing a PhD at the University of California San Francisco. She turned her attention to regeneration in salamanders during a postdoctoral fellowship at University College London (UK). Tanaka started her own lab at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics (MPI-CBG) in Dresden (Germany) in 1999. She became a professor at the Center for Regenerative Therapies Dresden (CRTD) in 2008, an institution of which she later became director. In 2016, Elly Tanaka moved to the IMP, where she is a Senior Scientist.

Tanaka’s current research interests seek to improve our understanding of regeneration and investigating the differences in regenerative abilities between species and at different phases of the life cycle drawing primarily from work on axolotls, frogs, mice, and tissue culture.

Tanaka has received many awards for her work, including the German Stem Cell Network Female Scientist Award (2017), the Ernst Schering Award (2017), the Schrödinger Award of the Austrian Academy of Sciences (2018), and the FEBS | EMBO Women in Science Award (2020). Elly Tanaka is an elected full member of the Academia Europaea (2015), the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO, 2017), and the Austrian Academy of Sciences (ÖAW, 2021). 

In the NAS statement, the organisation announced the election of 120 new members (including Elly Tanaka), as well as 23 international members. This raises the total number of active NAS members to 2,565 and the total number of international members to 526.

International members are nonvoting members of the Academy, with citizenship outside the United States. Among this year's newly elected members is IMP emeritus director Kim Nasmyth, now the Whitley Professor of Biochemistry at the University of Oxford.

The National Academy of Sciences is a private, non-profit society of distinguished scholars in the United States. Established by an Act of Congress, signed by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863, the NAS is charged with providing independent, objective advice to the nation on matters related to science and technology. Scientists are elected by their peers to membership in the NAS for outstanding contributions to research, making an election an exceptional mark of distinction.

The NAS is committed to furthering science in the United States and beyond, and its members are active contributors to the international scientific community. Approximately 500 current and deceased members of the NAS have won Nobel Prizes, and the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), founded in 1914, is today a leading scientific journal publishing the results of original research.

Further Reading

Lab of Elly Tanaka
National Academy of Sciences (NAS)