University of California San Francisco
Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center
Elizabeth Blackburn, PhD

Elizabeth Blackburn, PhD

Morris Herzstein Professor Emerita, Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, UCSF

Cancer Center Program Memberships

Non-aligned

Research Summary

Dr. Elizabeth H. Blackburn, Morris Herztein Professor of Biology and Physiology in the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics at the University of California, San Francisco, is a leader in the area of telomere and telomerase research.

She discovered the molecular nature of telomeres - the ends of eukaryotic chromosomes that serve as protective caps essential for preserving the genetic information - and the ribonucleoprotein enzyme, telomerase. Blackburn and her research team at the University of California, San Francisco are working with various cells including human cells, with the goal of understanding telomerase and telomere biology.

Blackburn earned her B.Sc. (1970) and M.Sc. (1972) degrees from the University of Melbourne in Australia, and her Ph.D. (1975) from the University of Cambridge in England. She did her postdoctoral work in Molecular and Cellular Biology from 1975 to 1977 at Yale.

In 1978, Blackburn joined the faculty at the University of California at Berkeley in the Department of Molecular Biology. In 1990, she joined the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at UC San Francisco, where she served as Department Chair from 1993 to 1999. Blackburn is currently a faculty member in Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics at UCSF. She is also a Non-Resident Fellow of the Salk Institute.

Throughout her career, Blackburn has been honored by her peers as the recipient of many prestigious awards. She was elected President of the American Society for Cell Biology for the year 1998. Blackburn is an elected Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1991), the Royal Society of London (1992), the American Academy of Microbiology (1993), and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (2000).

She was elected Foreign Associate of the National Academy of Sciences in 1993, and was elected as a Member of the Institute of Medicine in 2000. She was awarded the Albert Lasker Medical Research Award in Basic Medical Research (2006). In 2007 she was named one of TIME Magazine’s 100 Most influential People and she is the 2008 North American Laureate for L’Oreal-UNESCO For Women in Science.

Education

University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia, B.Sc., 1970, Biochemistry
University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia, M.Sc., 1972, Biochemistry
University of Cambridge, England, Ph.D., 1975, Molecular Biology
Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, Postdoc., 1975-1977, Molecular and Cellular Biology


Professional Experience

  • 1970-1971
    Graduate Research Student, Master of Science Degree course Department of Biochemistry, University of Melbourne, Australia
  • 1971-1974
    Graduate Research Student, Division of Protein and Nucleic Acid Chemistry MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge, England (Advisor: F. Sanger)
  • 1975-1977
    Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Biology, Yale University
  • 1978 Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Biochemistry, University of California, San Francisco
  • 1978-1983
    Assistant Professor, Department of Molecular Biology, University of California, Berkeley
  • 1983-1986
    Associate Professor, Department of Molecular Biology, University of California, Berkeley
  • 1986-1990
    Professor, Department of Molecular Biology, University of California, Berkeley
  • 1993-1999
    Chair, Department of Microbiology Immunology, University of California, San Francisco
  • 1990-present
    Professor, Departments of Biochemistry and Biophysics, and Microbiology and Immunology, University of California, San Francisco
  • 1996-present
    Member, Breast Oncology Program (1996) and Genitourinary Oncology Program (1999), UCSF Comprehensive Cancer Center
  • 2001-present
    Scientific Advisory Board, Division of Basic Science, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
  • 2003-present
    Scientific Advisory Board, Huntsman Cancer Institute, University of Utah, Salt Lake City
  • 2003-2007
    Member, National Advisory Council on Aging, National Institute of Aging, NIH
  • 2008-present
    Member, National Academies of Sciences Committee on Science, Technology and the Law.

Honors & Awards

  • Selected honors and awards since 2000. For complete list, see Blackburn Lab website.
  • 2000
    American Association for Cancer Research-G.H.A. Clowes Memorial Award
  • 2000
    Elected, Institute of Medicine
  • 2000
    American Cancer Society Medal of Honor
  • 2000
    Elected, Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science
  • 2001
    AACR-Pezcoller Foundation International Award for Cancer Research
  • 2001
    General Motors Cancer Research Foundation Alfred P. Sloan Award
  • 2003
    26th Annual Bristol-Myers Squibb Award for Distinguished Achievement in Cancer Research
  • 2005
    Kirk A. Landon-American Association for Cancer Research Prize for Basic Cancer Research
  • 2005
    Benjamin Franklin Medal in Life Science
  • 2005
    New York Academy of Medicine Medal
  • 2006
    National Cancer Institute Alfred G. Knudson Award
  • 2006
    Fifth annual Wiley Prize in Biomedical Sciences
  • 2006
    Albert Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research
  • 2006
    The 25th Meyenburg Prize
  • 2006
    Elected, American Philosophical Society
  • 2007
    Elected, Australian Academy of Science
  • 2007
    TIME 100 Most Influential People in the World
  • 2008
    L'Oreal UNESCO For Women In Science Award
  • 2008
    Weizmann Women & Science Award: Weizmann Institute of Science
  • 2009
    Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine

Selected Publications

  1. Chow TT, Shi X, Wei JH, Guan J, Stadler G, Huang B, Blackburn EH. Local enrichment of HP1alpha at telomeres alters their structure and regulation of telomere protection. Nat Commun. 2018 Sep 04; 9(1):3583.
    View on PubMed
  2. Lin J, Sun J, Wang S, Milush JM, Baker CAR, Coccia M, Effros RB, Puterman E, Blackburn E, Prather AA, Epel E. In vitro proinflammatory gene expression predicts in vivo telomere shortening: A preliminary study. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2018 Jun 26; 96:179-187.
    View on PubMed
  3. Wojcicki JM, Elwan D, Lin J, Blackburn E, Epel E. Chronic Obesity and Incident Hypertension in Latina Women Are Associated with Accelerated Telomere Length Loss over a 1-Year Period. Metab Syndr Relat Disord. 2018 May 11.
    View on PubMed
  4. Staffaroni AM, Tosun D, Lin J, Elahi FM, Casaletto KB, Wynn MJ, Patel N, Neuhaus J, Walters SM, Epel ES, Blackburn EH, Kramer JH. Telomere attrition is associated with declines in medial temporal lobe volume and white matter microstructure in functionally independent older adults. Neurobiol Aging. 2018 May 08; 69:68-75.
    View on PubMed
  5. Stout SA, Lin J, Hernandez N, Davis EP, Blackburn E, Carroll JE, Glynn LM. Validation of Minimally-Invasive Sample Collection Methods for Measurement of Telomere Length. Front Aging Neurosci. 2017; 9:397.
    View on PubMed
  6. Schrock JM, Adler NE, Epel ES, Nuru-Jeter AM, Lin J, Blackburn EH, Taylor RJ, Chae DH. Socioeconomic Status, Financial Strain, and Leukocyte Telomere Length in a Sample of African American Midlife Men. J Racial Ethn Health Disparities. 2017 Jun 20.
    View on PubMed
  7. Fair B, Mellon SH, Epel ES, Lin J, Révész D, Verhoeven JE, Penninx BW, Reus VI, Rosser R, Hough CM, Mahan L, Burke HM, Blackburn EH, Wolkowitz OM. Telomere length is inversely correlated with urinary stress hormone levels in healthy controls but not in un-medicated depressed individuals-preliminary findings. J Psychosom Res. 2017 Aug; 99:177-180.
    View on PubMed
  8. Steptoe A, Hamer M, Lin J, Blackburn EH, Erusalimsky JD. The Longitudinal Relationship Between Cortisol Responses to Mental Stress and Leukocyte Telomere Attrition. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2017 Mar 01; 102(3):962-969.
    View on PubMed
  9. Goglin SE, Farzaneh-Far R, Epel ES, Lin J, Blackburn EH, Whooley MA. Correction: Change in Leukocyte Telomere Length Predicts Mortality in Patients with Stable Coronary Heart Disease from the Heart and Soul Study. PLoS One. 2016; 11(12):e0168868.
    View on PubMed
  10. Rehkopf DH, Needham BL, Lin J, Blackburn EH, Zota AR, Wojcicki JM, Epel ES. Leukocyte Telomere Length in Relation to 17 Biomarkers of Cardiovascular Disease Risk: A Cross-Sectional Study of US Adults. PLoS Med. 2016 Nov; 13(11):e1002188.
    View on PubMed
  11. Goglin SE, Farzaneh-Far R, Epel ES, Lin J, Blackburn EH, Whooley MA. Change in Leukocyte Telomere Length Predicts Mortality in Patients with Stable Coronary Heart Disease from the Heart and Soul Study. PLoS One. 2016; 11(10):e0160748.
    View on PubMed
  12. Peng H, Mete M, Desale S, Fretts AM, Cole SA, Best LG, Lin J, Blackburn E, Lee ET, Howard BV, Zhao J. Leukocyte telomere length and ideal cardiovascular health in American Indians: the Strong Heart Family Study. Eur J Epidemiol. 2017 01; 32(1):67-75.
    View on PubMed
  13. Auld E, Lin J, Chang E, Byanyima P, Ayakaka I, Musisi E, Worodria W, Davis JL, Segal M, Blackburn E, Huang L. HIV Infection Is Associated with Shortened Telomere Length in Ugandans with Suspected Tuberculosis. PLoS One. 2016; 11(9):e0163153.
    View on PubMed
  14. Usadi B, Bruhn R, Lin J, Lee TH, Blackburn E, Murphy EL. Telomere Length, Proviral Load and Neurologic Impairment in HTLV-1 and HTLV-2-Infected Subjects. Viruses. 2016 08 11; 8(8).
    View on PubMed
  15. Peng H, Zhu Y, Yeh F, Cole SA, Best LG, Lin J, Blackburn E, Devereux RB, Roman MJ, Lee ET, Howard BV, Zhao J. Impact of biological aging on arterial aging in American Indians: findings from the Strong Heart Family Study. Aging (Albany NY). 2016 Aug; 8(8):1583-92.
    View on PubMed
  16. Wojcicki JM, Heyman MB, Elwan D, Lin J, Blackburn E, Epel E. Early exclusive breastfeeding is associated with longer telomeres in Latino preschool children. Am J Clin Nutr. 2016 Aug; 104(2):397-405.
    View on PubMed
  17. Jay KA, Smith DL, Blackburn EH. Early Loss of Telomerase Action in Yeast Creates a Dependence on the DNA Damage Response Adaptor Proteins. Mol Cell Biol. 2016 07 15; 36(14):1908-19.
    View on PubMed
  18. Hough CM, Bersani FS, Mellon SH, Epel ES, Reus VI, Lindqvist D, Lin J, Mahan L, Rosser R, Burke H, Coetzee J, Nelson JC, Blackburn EH, Wolkowitz OM. Leukocyte telomere length predicts SSRI response in major depressive disorder: A preliminary report. Mol Neuropsychiatry. 2016 Jul; 2(2):88-96.
    View on PubMed
  19. Wojcicki JM, Shiboski S, Heyman MB, Elwan D, Lin J, Blackburn E, Epel E. Telomere length change plateaus at 4 years of age in Latino children: associations with baseline length and maternal change. Mol Genet Genomics. 2016 Jun; 291(3):1379-89.
    View on PubMed
  20. Lin J, Cheon J, Brown R, Coccia M, Puterman E, Aschbacher K, Sinclair E, Epel E, Blackburn EH. Systematic and Cell Type-Specific Telomere Length Changes in Subsets of Lymphocytes. J Immunol Res. 2016; 2016:5371050.
    View on PubMed

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