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.

Research Funding

  • July 1, 2015 - April 30, 2025 - Inflammation, Aging, Microbes, Obstructive Lung Disease and Diffusion Abnormalities (I AM OLD-DA) Study , Co-Principal Investigator . Sponsor: NIH, Sponsor Award ID: R01HL128156
  • September 15, 2016 - March 31, 2021 - Social Disadvantage and Fetal Programming of Newborn-Infant Telomere Biology , Co-Principal Investigator . Sponsor: NIH, Sponsor Award ID: R01AG050455
  • September 1, 2002 - June 30, 2018 - Synergism of telomere maintenance and telomerase with cancer-promoting signaling , Principal Investigator . Sponsor: NIH, Sponsor Award ID: R01CA096840
  • July 1, 1978 - June 30, 2016 - The function of telomerase and telomeres , Principal Investigator . Sponsor: NIH, Sponsor Award ID: R01GM026259


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

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. Rampersaud R, Wu GWY, Reus VI, Lin J, Blackburn EH, Epel ES, Hough CM, Mellon SH, Wolkowitz OM. Shorter telomere length predicts poor antidepressant response and poorer cardiometabolic indices in major depression. Sci Rep. 2023 Jun 23; 13(1):10238.  View on PubMed
  2. Prather AA, Dutcher EG, Robinson J, Lin J, Blackburn E, Hecht FM, Mason AE, Fromer E, Merino B, Frazier R, O'Bryan J, Drury S, Epel ES. Predictors of long-term neutralizing antibody titers following COVID-19 vaccination by three vaccine types: the BOOST study. Sci Rep. 2023 05 09; 13(1):6505.  View on PubMed
  3. Assefa TA, Seaberg MH, Reid AH, Shen L, Esposito V, Dakovski GL, Schlotter W, Holladay B, Streubel R, Montoya SA, Hart P, Nakahara K, Moeller S, Kevan SD, Fischer P, Fullerton EE, Colocho W, Lutman A, Decker FJ, Sinha SK, Roy S, Blackburn E, Turner JJ. The fluctuation-dissipation measurement instrument at the Linac Coherent Light Source. Rev Sci Instrum. 2022 Aug 01; 93(8):083902.  View on PubMed
  4. Abad MA, Gupta T, Hadders MA, Meppelink A, Wopken JP, Blackburn E, Zou J, Gireesh A, Buzuk L, Kelly DA, McHugh T, Rappsilber J, Lens SMA, Jeyaprakash AA. Mechanistic basis for Sgo1-mediated centromere localization and function of the CPC. J Cell Biol. 2022 08 01; 221(8).  View on PubMed
  5. Verner G, Epel E, Lahti-Pulkkinen M, Kajantie E, Buss C, Lin J, Blackburn E, Räikkönen K, Wadhwa PD, Entringer S. Maternal Psychological Resilience During Pregnancy and Newborn Telomere Length: A Prospective Study. Am J Psychiatry. 2021 02 01; 178(2):183-192.  View on PubMed
  6. Choi J, Ivashko O, Blackburn E, Liang R, Bonn DA, Hardy WN, Holmes AT, Christensen NB, Hücker M, Gerber S, Gutowski O, Rütt U, Zimmermann MV, Forgan EM, Hayden SM, Chang J. Spatially inhomogeneous competition between superconductivity and the charge density wave in YBa2Cu3O6.67. Nat Commun. 2020 Feb 20; 11(1):990.  View on PubMed
  7. Alexeeff SE, Schaefer CA, Kvale MN, Shan J, Blackburn EH, Risch N, Ranatunga DK, Jorgenson E, Hoffmann TJ, Sakoda LC, Quesenberry CP, Van Den Eeden SK. Telomere length and socioeconomic status at neighborhood and individual levels among 80,000 adults in the Genetic Epidemiology Research on Adult Health and Aging cohort. Environ Epidemiol. 2019 Jun; 3(3):e049.  View on PubMed
  8. Lazarides C, Epel ES, Lin J, Blackburn EH, Voelkle MC, Buss C, Simhan HN, Wadhwa PD, Entringer S. Maternal pro-inflammatory state during pregnancy and newborn leukocyte telomere length: A prospective investigation. Brain Behav Immun. 2019 08; 80:419-426.  View on PubMed
  9. Sullivan S, Hammadah M, Al Mheid I, Shah A, Sun YV, Kutner M, Ward L, Blackburn E, Zhao J, Lin J, Bremner JD, Quyyumi AA, Vaccarino V, Lewis TT. An investigation of racial/ethnic and sex differences in the association between experiences of everyday discrimination and leukocyte telomere length among patients with coronary artery disease. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2019 08; 106:122-128.  View on PubMed
  10. 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 09 04; 9(1):3583.  View on PubMed
  11. 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 10; 96:179-187.  View on PubMed
  12. 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 08; 16(6):262-266.  View on PubMed
  13. Lin JQ, Liu X, Blackburn E, Wakimoto S, Ding H, Islam Z, Sinha SK. Quantitative Characterization of the Nanoscale Local Lattice Strain Induced by Sr Dopants in La_{1.92}Sr_{0.08}CuO_{4}. Phys Rev Lett. 2018 May 11; 120(19):197001.  View on PubMed
  14. 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 09; 69:68-75.  View on PubMed
  15. Kjaer TW, Faurholt-Jepsen D, Mehta KM, Christensen VB, Epel E, Lin J, Blackburn E, Wojcicki JM. Shorter preschool, leukocyte telomere length is associated with obesity at age 9 in Latino children. Clin Obes. 2018 Apr; 8(2):88-94.  View on PubMed
  16. 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
  17. 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. 2018 06; 5(3):459-467.  View on PubMed
  18. 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 08; 99:177-180.  View on PubMed
  19. 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 03 01; 102(3):962-969.  View on PubMed
  20. 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

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