News Releases

Dr. Lee Hartwell, Hutchinson Center Director, to Receive Two Prestigious Scientific Awards

  • The Leopold Griffuel Prize (to be presented tomorrow in Paris, France)

  • The Massry Prize (to be presented Saturday in Beverly Hills, Calif.)

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 selected to receive two top scientific awards for his cell-cycle research, both to be presented later this week.

Tomorrow (Thursday, Nov. 16) Hartwell will accept the 31st annual Leopold Griffuel Prize (Prix Leopold Griffuel) in Paris. The award of 700,000 French francs (valued at approximately $93,000), is sponsored by the French Association for Cancer Research. It is designed to reward the accomplishments of and encourage further research among the world's leading cancer researchers. Past American recipients of the Griffuel Prize include Samuel Broder, former director of the National Cancer Institute; and C. Everett Koop, former U.S. Surgeon General.

On Saturday (Nov. 18), Hartwell will head to Beverly Hills, Calif., where he will be presented with another prestigious award, the 2000 Massry Prize, which was announced earlier this fall. The $40,000 award, which comes with a 10-ounce gold medal, honors those who have made outstanding contributions to biomedical sciences and the advancement of health. The Massry Prize 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. Past recipients of the Massry Prize include Gunter Blobel of Rockefeller University, a cell biologist who last year won the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine; and angiogenesis researcher Judah Folkman, a surgeon and cell biologist from Harvard University.

In his 30 years of studying yeast, Hartwell 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 is the key component of the cell's "division clock."

Learning when and why the cell cycle goes awry - often leading to genetic errors and 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 the Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Prize, the American Cancer Society Medal of Honor Basic Research Award, the General Motors Sloan Award and the Gairdner Foundation International Award for Achievements in Science. He also is a member of the National Academy of Sciences.

Editor's note: Broadcast-quality b-roll and photos of Hartwell in his Hutchinson Center office and laboratory are available upon request.

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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 and one of 37 nationwide. For more information, visit the Center's Web site at <>.

CONTACT: Kristen Woodward
(206) 667-5095

Nov. 15, 2000