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Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center

Bishop Named Winner of National Medal of Science

By UCSF Today | February 15, 2005

UCSF Chancellor J. Michael Bishop, MD, has been named a recipient of the 2003 National Medal of Science, the nation's highest honor for science and technology.

Bishop was among eight winners announced on Monday (Feb. 14) by President George W. Bush.

The honorees will receive the medals at a White House ceremony on March 14.

The National Medal of Science honors individuals in a variety of fields for pioneering scientific research that has led to a better understanding of the world, as well as to the innovations and technologies that give the United States its global economic edge. The National Science Foundation administers the award, established by Congress in 1959.

Bishop, who is also the Arthur and Toni Rembe Rock Distinguished Professor, University Professor, and Professor of Microbiology and Immunology at UCSF, began his research career working on the replication of poliovirus. But soon after arriving at UCSF in 1968, he shifted his attention to Rous sarcoma virus, hoping to explore the fundamental mechanisms of tumorigenesis. In 1970, he was joined by Harold Varmus.

Together, they directed the research that led to the discovery of proto-oncogenes -- normal genes that can be converted to cancer genes by genetic damage. This work eventually led to the recognition that all cancer probably arises from damage to normal genes, and provided new strategies for the detection and treatment of cancer. Bishop has devoted his research to the study of proto-oncogenes -- their functions in normal cells and the manner in which they become cancer genes.

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