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Dr. David Botstein Honored With 2014 American Association for Cancer Research-Irving Weinstein Foundation Distinguished Lectureship

April 3, 2014
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SAN DIEGO — The American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) will award David Botstein, Ph.D., with the 10th annual AACR-Irving Weinstein Foundation Distinguished Lectureship at the AACR Annual Meeting 2014, to be held in San Diego, Calif., April 5-9.

Botstein, Anthony B. Evnin professor of genomics at Princeton University in New Jersey and chief scientific officer of Calico, Google’s new startup focusing on health and well-being, is being recognized for his far-reaching work on cancer and genetics, including laying the groundwork for what would become the Human Genome Project.

Botstein will present his lecture, “Evolution and Cancer,” Saturday, April 5, 5:30 p.m. PT, in Room 20A-C in the San Diego Convention Center.

The AACR-Irving Weinstein Foundation Distinguished Lectureship was established in 2004 to acknowledge an individual whose outstanding innovations in science and whose position as a thought leader have the potential to inspire creative thinking and new directions in cancer research. The recipient is selected by the AACR president and is not open to nominations.

“Dr. Botstein is a basic scientist and geneticist whose work, whether he intended it or not, has had a profound impact on the cancer research field,” said AACR President Charles L. Sawyers, M.D. “His early work on gene mapping methods set the stage for the human genome project and the Cancer Genome Atlas [TCGA]. His early studies using microarray technology, primarily to query the complete transcriptome of cells in response to environmental perturbations, have transformed the way cancer biologists do research and have impacted cancer diagnostics. As AACR president, I am proud to honor his achievements with the Weinstein Distinguished Lectureship.”

“Dr. Botstein is a distinguished leader in the field of genetics who is greatly deserving of this award,” said Margaret Foti, Ph.D., M.D. (hon.), chief executive officer of the AACR. “His paradigm-setting research established a method for identifying genes that drive human disease. This laid the foundation for the ongoing work to unravel the cancer genome, which is yielding knowledge that is being translated into major advances in patient care.”

“I am greatly pleased and honored, and very surprised, by this award. I never thought of myself as a cancer biologist. I am a basic scientist who has pursued understanding for its own sake. I’m delighted that the AACR has recognized in this award that the pursuit of understanding, as opposed to a determined focus on translation, may sometimes be the best way to address the terrible and complex disease called cancer,” Botstein said.

Botstein is one of the principal scientists responsible for unlocking the human genome, and his work has revolutionized the understanding of the genetic basis of human disease. In the early 1980s, he proposed building a map of human disease genes using DNA polymorphisms, which formed the framework for the new science of genomics and the bedrock of what was to become the Human Genome Project. The techniques he developed for constructing the human linkage map were subsequently used to study inherited diseases and have led to the identification of disease genes, such as the BRCA1 gene and the Huntingtin gene. Botstein made significant contributions toward understanding the physical and genetic properties of bacteria and bacteriophage, and developed methods to study the eukaryotic cytoskeleton in yeast through detection of gene interactions. He also has been a strong advocate of developing research community resources, cofounding the Saccharomyces Genome Database and the Stanford Microarray Database.

Botstein’s laboratory collaborated in applying microarray technology in order to study genomewide gene expression to define subtypes of human tumors. He also collaborated on the development of a statistical method and graphical interface widely used to interpret genomic data, including the microarray data.

In addition to his work in the laboratory, Botstein established a new science curriculum at Princeton called Integrated Science that combines biology, physics, chemistry, and computer science, and recently helped fund innovative curricula in technology-advanced teaching laboratories at four other institutions.

Botstein is currently on the editorial board of the Journal of Computational Biology, and serves on several advisory committees, including the scientific resource board at Genentech, Inc.; the advisory committee to the director at the National Institutes of Health; the committee on scientific affairs at The Rockefeller University in New York where he is also a trustee; and the board of directors at Pacific Biosciences of California.

Botstein has received numerous other accolades recognizing his work, including election this year as a fellow of the AACR Academy, the first Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences, the Dan David Prize, the Albany Medical Center Prize, the Gruber Prize in Genetics, the Rosenstiel Award, the Allen Award from the American Society for Human Genetics, and the Genetics Society Medal. He was elected to the Institute of Medicine and the National Academy of Sciences and received an honorary doctorate from Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York.

Until 2013, Botstein was director of the Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics at Princeton University. Prior to his tenure at Princeton, he was a professor and chair of the Department of Genetics at Stanford University School of Medicine in Calif.; professor of genetics in the Department of Biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston; and vice president of science at Genentech Inc. He received his bachelor’s degree in biochemical sciences from Harvard College in Cambridge, Mass. and his doctorate in human genetics with a subspecialty in microbial genetics from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

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