Fred Hutch researcher Sue Biggins awarded the Genetics Society of America’s Novitski Prize

Award recognizes extraordinary level of creativity and intellectual ingenuity in solving significant problems in genetics research
Sue Biggins, Ph.D.
Sue Biggins, Ph.D., Basic Sciences Division at Fred Hutch, is recipient of Genetics Society of America's Novitski Prize Fred Hutch News Service

BETHESDA, MD – January 21, 2015 – The Genetics Society of America (GSA) announced today that Sue Biggins, Ph.D., researcher at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, has been awarded the Society's Edward Novitski Prize. The award recognizes Biggins' extraordinary level of creativity and intellectual ingenuity in solving significant problems in genetics research—namely, her groundbreaking research on the molecular mechanisms of chromosome segregation, a process essential for cell division and frequently impaired in cancer.

"Dr. Biggins' work represents a single integrated attack on the biochemistry, structure, biophysics, and biology of a sophisticated molecular machine responsible for the accuracy of chromosome segregation," said Needhi Bhalla, PhD, Assistant Professor of Molecular, Cell & Developmental Biology at the University of California, Santa Cruz. "Her perseverance, innovation, and intellectual creativity produced extraordinary insights into the mechanics of chromosome segregation and paves the way for exciting future studies."

Biggins has been studying the kinetochore, a molecular machine that mediates chromosome segregation during cell division, for the last 20 years. Before her work, kinetochores had been challenging to isolate and investigate due to their complex, dynamic nature. Biggins tackled this problem in the budding yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, in which the chromosome segregation machinery is a simplified version of that found in humans. In what her peers describe as a 'tour de force,' she accomplished the first isolation of the kinetochore in any organism by developing an elegant one-step method.

This breakthrough made it possible for numerous labs to carry out in-depth studies of this complex machine, including her own lab's publication of the first molecular structure of a kinetochore in collaboration with Tamir Gonen's lab. Biggins also reconstituted various aspects of kinetochore function in several collaborative studies with Chip Asbury's lab that helped to dissect mechanisms behind the diverse roles of kinetochores. Taken together, her innovative, interdisciplinary research has helped to shape the current understanding of chromosome segregation and has laid the foundation for a detailed, mechanistic dissection of the varied processes that underlie it.

Biggins has been a GSA member for fifteen years, is an Associate Editor of the Society's flagship journal GENETICS, and has served on the organizing committee of GSA's biannual Yeast Genetics Meeting since 2010. She also belongs to the American Society for Cell Biology, where she recently served as an elected Council member. Early in her career, Biggins was awarded postdoctoral fellowships from the Jane Coffin Childs Memorial Fund and the American Cancer Society, followed by a Beckman Young Investigator Award. In 2013, she received the National Academy of Sciences Award in Molecular Biology for her work on kinetochores and the McDougall Mentoring Award from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

The Edward Novitski Prize recognizes an extraordinary level of creativity and intellectual ingenuity in the solution of significant problems in genetics research. The award recognizes scientific achievement that stands out from the body of innovative work, that is deeply impressive to creative masters in the field, and that solves a difficult problem in genetics. It recognizes the beautiful and intellectually ingenious experimental design and execution involved in genetics scientific discovery.

The Prize was established in 2007 by the Novitski family and GSA to honor the memory of Edward Novitski (1918–2006), a Drosophila geneticist and lifelong GSA member, who specialized in chromosome mechanics and elucidating meioisis through the construction of modified chromosomes.

To learn more about the GSA awards, and to view a list of previous recipients, please see

# # #

40 YEARS OF CURES 1975-2015

At Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, home to three Nobel laureates, interdisciplinary teams of world-renowned scientists seek new and innovative ways to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer, HIV/AIDS and other life-threatening diseases. Fred Hutch’s pioneering work in bone marrow transplantation led to the development of immunotherapy, which harnesses the power of the immune system to treat cancer with minimal side effects. An independent, nonprofit research institute based in Seattle, Fred Hutch houses the nation’s first and largest cancer prevention research program, as well as the clinical coordinating center of the Women’s Health Initiative and the international headquarters of the HIV Vaccine Trials Network. Private contributions are essential for enabling Fred Hutch scientists to explore novel research opportunities that lead to important medical breakthroughs. For more information or follow Fred Hutch on FacebookTwitter or YouTube.

About the Genetics Society of America (GSA)

Founded in 1931, the Genetics Society of America (GSA) is the professional scientific society for genetics researchers and educators. The Society’s more than 5,000 members worldwide work to deepen our understanding of the living world by advancing the field of genetics, from the molecular to the population level. GSA promotes research and fosters communication through a number of GSA-sponsored conferencesincluding regular meetings that focus on particular model organisms. GSA publishes two peer-reviewed, peer-edited scholarly journals:GENETICS, which has published high quality original research across the breadth of the field since 1916, and G3: Genes|Genomes|Genetics, an open-access journal launched in 2011 to disseminate high quality foundational research in genetics and genomics. The Society also has a deep commitment to education and fostering the next generation of scholars in the field. For more information about GSA, please

Fred Hutch Media Contact
Michael Nank

GSA Media Contact
Raeka Aiyar, Ph.D.