SEATTLE — May 3, 2011 — Cell biologist Daniel Gottschling, Ph.D., a member of the Basic Sciences Division at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, has been elected to membership in the National Academy of Sciences. Election to NAS is considered one of the highest honors that can be accorded a U.S. scientist or engineer.
“I am flattered and honored to be recognized by my scientific peers,” said Gottschling, who will be inducted into the Academy next April during its 149th annual meeting in Washington, D.C. “I have been fortunate to have spent most of my life among family and friends who have supported my scientific curiosity and colleagues who have shared my passion to pursue it.”
Gottschling, the eighth Hutchinson Center researcher to be elected to NAS, was among 72 new members elected today, bringing the total number of current active members to 2,113. The Academy’s renowned members have included Albert Einstein, Robert Oppenheimer, Thomas Edison, Orville Wright and Alexander Graham Bell. More than 180 NAS members have won Nobel Prizes.
Gottschling has discovered genes that are critically important in different facets of chromosome biology, including a landmark finding that initiated the genetic analysis of telomerase. Telomerase is an enzyme that, if activated in a cell, will cause the cell to become immortal and continue to grow and divide. This “immortal cell” theory is important in two areas of research: aging and cancer.
He has studied yeast cells for clues to the molecular underpinnings of life – clues that he hopes will have parallels in humans. Recently, he has been using this model organism to understand the relationship between cancer and aging – a problem that has long vexed biologists.
Gottschling was inspired to study the connection between aging and cancer after learning some startling statistics: A person’s risk of developing cancer starts to increase exponentially around age 40. By age 55, men have a 50 percent chance and women have a 33 percent chance of acquiring some form of the disease. Gottschling and colleagues study yeast to determine whether a fundamental process exists in all cells as they get older that might explain the increased incidence of cancer.
“Dan’s work opened the door to understanding how the activity of a gene can be influenced by its ‘neighborhood’ and founded a novel field of study that has implications for understanding cancer and aging,” said fellow NAS member Mark Groudine, M.D., Ph.D., Hutchinson Center deputy director and former director of the Center’s Basic Sciences Division. “Moreover, Dan is a consummate scientist who cares deeply about science and is a wonderful colleague and mentor.”
This is not the first time Gottschling has been honored by the NAS; in 1995 he received the National Academy of Sciences Award in Molecular Biology. In 2010 he was elected to membership in the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. He is also a former Pew Scholar, Fletcher Scholar of the Cancer Research Foundation, Ellison Medical Foundation Senior Scholar, and a recipient of the Glenn Award for Research in Biological Mechanisms of Aging.
Gottschling received his Ph.D. in 1984 from the University of Colorado at Boulder and spent five years as a postdoctoral research fellow at the Hutchinson Center before joining the Molecular, Genetic and Cell Biology faculty at the University of Chicago in 1989. He joined the Hutchinson Center’s Basic Sciences Division in 1996 and in 2001 became an affiliate professor of Genome Sciences at the University of Washington School of Medicine.
In addition to Gottschling and Groudine, other NAS members from the Hutchinson Center include Nobel laureate E. Donnall Thomas, M.D., director emeritus of the Center’s Clinical Research Division; Nobel laureate Lee Hartwell, Ph.D., Center president and director emeritus; and four members of the Center’s Basic Sciences Division: Nobel laureate Linda B. Buck, Ph.D.; Robert Eisenman, Ph.D.; Steve Henikoff, Ph.D.; and the late Harold Weintraub, M.D., Ph.D., an international leader in molecular biology and a founding member of the Center’s Basic Sciences Division.
Photo available: A digital photo of Gottschling is available upon request.
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
At Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, our interdisciplinary teams of world-renowned scientists and humanitarians work together to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer, HIV/AIDS and other diseases. Our researchers, including three Nobel laureates, bring a relentless pursuit and passion for health, knowledge and hope to their work and to the world. For more information, please visit www.fhcrc.org.