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Elizabeth H. Blackburn

AKA Elizabeth Helen Blackburn

Born: 26-Nov-1948
Birthplace: Hobart, Australia

Gender: Female
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Scientist

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Co-Discoverer of telomerase

Elizabeth H. Blackburn is a biochemist and physicist at the University of California at San Francisco, known for her groundbreaking research into the the structure and role of telomeres. These tiny structures cap the ends of chromosomes, contributing to the stability of gene cells, and Blackburn's early work showed a relationship between the size of telomeres and a chromosome's ability to reproduce. In 1984, working with her student Carol W. Greider, Blackburn isolated telomerase, a newly-discovered enzyme which synthesizes new telomeres in DNA and determines the length of telomeres. In subsequent research, Blackburn has shown that telomeres shrink and cannot reproduce properly when telomerase is defective. Her work has important implications for researchers in cancer, fungal infections, and the aging process.

Among non-scientists, Blackburn first made headlines in 2004, when she was fired from President George W. Bush's Council on Bioethics for her continued advocacy of human embryonic stem cell research, which the Bush administration considered unethical and refused to fund. In 2009 she was a recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, an honor shared with her colleague Greider and with Jack W. Szostak. Her husband, John Sedat, is also a professor of microbiology at University of California at San Francisco.

Father: Harold Blackburn (physician)
Mother: Marcia Jack Blackburn (physician)
Husband: John Sedat (molecular biologist, m. 1975, one son)
Son: Benjamin (b. 1986)

    High School: University High School, Melbourne, Australia (1966)
    University: BS, University of Melbourne (1970)
    University: MS, University of Melbourne (1971)
    University: PhD Molecular Biology, Cambridge University (1975)
    Scholar: Molecular and Cellular Biology, Yale University (1975-77)
    Scholar: University of California at San Francisco (1977-78)
    Teacher: Molecular Biology, University of California at Berkeley (1978-86)
    Professor: Molecular Biology, University of California at Berkeley (1986-90)
    Professor: Biochemistry and Biophysics, University of California at San Francisco (1990-)
    Administrator: Chair, Dept. of Microbiology and Immunology, UC San Francisco (1993-99)

    American Cancer Society Medal of Honor 2000
    Australia Prize 1998
    Clowes Memorial Award 2000
    Eli Lilly Research Award for Microbiology and Immunology 1988
    Benjamin Franklin Medal 2005 (by the Franklin Institute)
    Gairdner Foundation International Award 1998
    Harvey Prize 1999
    Heineken Prize for Medicine 2004
    Horwitz Prize 2007 (with Carol W. Greider and Joseph Gall)
    Lasker Award 2006 (with Carol W. Greider and Jack W. Szostak)
    National Academy of Science Award in Molecular Biology 1990
    Paul Ehrlich and Ludwig Darmstaedter Prize 2009 (with Carol W. Greider)
    Nobel Prize for Medicine 2009 (with Carol W. Greider and Jack W. Szostak)
    Alfred P. Sloan Award 2001
    Wiley Prize in Biomedical Sciences 2006 (with Carol W. Greider)
    American Academy of Arts and Sciences 1991
    American Academy of Microbiology 1993
    American Association for the Advancement of Science 2000
    American Cancer Society
    American Society for Cell Biology President (1998)
    American Society for Cell Biology Board of Directors (2006-)
    Genetics Society of America 2000
    Institute of Medicine 2000
    National Academy of Sciences 1993 (Foreign Associate)
    National Institute of General Medical Sciences
    National Science Foundation
    President's Council on Bioethics (2002-04)
    Royal Society 1992
    Naturalized US Citizen 2003
    Australian Ancestry

Author of books:
Telomeres (1995, with Carol W. Greider)


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