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Dr. Lee Hartwell, Hutchinson Center Director, Wins Massry Prize for His Cell-Cycle Research

Lee Hartwell, Ph.D., president and director of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and professor of genetics at the University of Washington, has been named recipient of the 2000 Massry Prize for his cell-cycle research.

The $40,000 award, which honors those who have made outstanding contributions to biomedical sciences and the advancement of health, is given each year by the Meira and Shaul G. Massry Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting education and research in nephrology, physiology and related fields. Shaul G. Massry, professor emeritus of medicine, physiology and biophysics at the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine, is the organization's founder.

The Massry Prize, which also includes a 10-ounce gold medal, will be presented Nov. 18 in the Beverly Hills, Calif., City Council Chamber.

The theme for this year's Massry Prize was the cell cycle .

In his 30 years of studying yeast, Hartwell has seen the cell cycle up close. He has identified more than 50 genes that are crucial to controlling the intricate program of instructions by which a cell grows, rests and divides to replicate itself. Among Hartwell's discoveries in budding yeast is a gene called CDC28, which cells need to progress through their various life stages.

Learning when and why the cell cycle goes awry - often leading to the uncontrolled growth that is characteristic of cancer - is the centerpiece of his work.

The conviction that the development of cells (including human cells) could be discerned from yeast was a "fairly risky assumption," Hartwell says, looking back on the early days of his career in the 1960s. In retrospect, it is clear the risk was worth it. Now, after 30 years of working with yeast, he is committed to the application of knowledge that he and his many colleagues have acquired.

Hartwell joined the University of Washington faculty in 1968 and has been a professor of genetics there since 1973.

In 1996 he joined the faculty of Seattle's Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and in 1997 became its president and director. At the Hutchinson Center, Hartwell's yeast-related research is being used to develop drugs for use against cancer and other diseases.

Hartwell is the recipient of many prestigious scientific awards, including Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Prize, the American Cancer Society Medal of Honor Basic Research Award, the Brinker International Award for Basic Science and the Gairdner Foundation International Award for Achievements in Science. He also is a member of the National Academy of Sciences.

Previous winners of the Massry Prize are Gunter Blobel of Rockefeller University, a cell biologist who last year won the Nobel Prize two months after receiving the Massry Prize; surgeon and cell biologist Judah Folkman of Harvard University; cell biologist Michael Berridge of the University of Cambridge; and molecular biologist Mark Ptashne of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

Editor's note: To arrange an interview with Hartwell, please contact Kristen Woodward in Hutchinson Center media relations, (206) 667-5095.


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The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center is an independent, nonprofit research institution dedicated to the development and advancement of biomedical technology to eliminate cancer and other potentially fatal diseases. Recognized internationally for its pioneering work in bone-marrow transplantation, the Center's four scientific divisions collaborate to form a unique environment for conducting basic and applied science. The Hutchinson Center is the only National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center in the Pacific Northwest. For more information, visit the Center's Web site at <>.

CONTACT: Kristen Woodward
(206) 667-5095

Sept. 8, 2000