Krzysztof Palczewski is a distinguished biochemical pharmacologist and molecular biologist, known particularly for seminal multidisciplinary scientific contributions to the biology and chemistry of vertebrate vision and therapy of retinal diseases. His laboratory is the best known for solving the structures of different forms of rhodopsin, a prototype for G protein-coupled receptors that comprise the largest and most diverse family of human drug targets, and other important proteins of the visual system. Moreover, his team developed high-resolution imaging with two-photon excitation that impacted non-invasive in vivo monitoring of real-time visual function. Palczewski, a US citizen, was born in Poland. He achieved M.S. (chemistry) degrees at the University of Wroclaw, and Ph.D. (biochemistry) Technical University of Wroclaw, Poland. He rose through the faculty ranks in Ophthalmology and Pharmacology at University of Washington, Seattle before serving as Chair of Pharmacology at Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, OH. Currently he is a Donald Bren Professor and Irving H. Leopold Professor of Ophthalmology at the University of California, Irvine, serving as Director of the Center for Translational Vision Research. He has received numerous prestigious international awards and is a member of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Medicine.

Research Interests

Kris Palczewski's laboratory is focused on the fundamental process of vision taking place in rod and cone photoreceptors of the retina and the adjacent pigment epithelium and is making essential discoveries about the chemistry and biology of visual phototransduction and chromophore recycling (visual cycle). The lab studies inherited retinal diseases in mouse models that recapitulate human blinding disorders, promoting the innovation of potential treatments for several of these conditions. To understand these processes, the Palczewski team determines the three-dimensional structures of proteins involved in vision using direct in vivo visualization of higher-order macromolecular and cellular structures involved in photoreceptor function. They are developing a novel class of small molecules that may prevent or arrest inherited retinal diseases as well as age-related macular degeneration, the major cause of blindness in the elderly. In a new frontier, the Palczewski lab is advancing the therapeutic potential of genome editing for the treatment of inherited retinal diseases and, by extension, other inherited blinding diseases. Thus, a combination of approaches in chemistry, cell biology, structural biology, and genetics are focused on improving our understanding of the visual processes as a prelude to development of novel therapeutic strategies aimed at preserving visual function.

Membership Type


Election Year


Primary Section

Section 23: Physiology and Pharmacology

Secondary Section

Section 42: Medical Physiology and Metabolism