Henikoff Lab celebrates 35 years at the Hutch
When Dr. Paul Neiman, one of the founders of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center’s Basic Sciences Division, ran into the University of Washington’s Dr. Charles Laird over three decades ago, Neiman reportedly asked him, “Where did you find this guy Steve Henikoff? And can you send us more?”
Laird, Dr. Steven Henikoff’s postdoctoral research adviser, recounted that story Monday at a symposium hosted at Fred Hutch in honor of Henikoff’s 35th year running his basic sciences research lab. Henikoff, an expert in the field of epigenetics (although, as he described Monday, the definition of that term has been up for debate for years), joined the Hutch as a faculty member in 1981 after his stint in Laird’s UW lab. Fred Hutch was just six years old at the time.
In the 35 years since, Henikoff has made seminal discoveries about gene silencing and the structure of chromatin, chromosomes’ organizational system in the cell, said Fred Hutch Executive Vice President and Deputy Director Dr. Mark Groudine while introducing the symposium, which coincided with Henikoff’s 70th birthday. Groudine, director emeritus of the Basic Sciences Division, outlined some of Henikoff’s “all-time greatest hits” of how genes are organized and turned on and off inside our cells, as well as the biologist’s inventor spirit.
“He and his lab members develop new techniques when existing ones are not up to the task at hand,” Groudine said. Henikoff’s friends and colleagues also described his tireless work ethic: “We’ll hold another symposium in Steve’s honor 70 years from now because Steve will still be working in the lab at that time,” Groudine quipped.