Nelson Cardiovascular Research Lecture

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Oliver Smithies, PhD

"Turning Pages: From Gels to Genes"
Thursday, April 1, 2010
University of Mississippi Medical Center, Room R153

Oliver Smithies

Nobel Laureate, Dr. Oliver Smithies, is the Weatherspoon Eminent Distinguished Professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Dr. Smithies is renowned for the ground-breaking discovery of the "knockout" technique, along with Dr. Mario Capecchi at the University of Utah and Dr. Martin Evans of Cardiff University. The trio working independently developed the technique. The technique allows scientists to engineer strains of mice with a gene missing or "knocked out" and observe how this absence affects the mice. The technique has already led to breakthroughs in the treatment of diseases and earned the trio the 2007 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

Dr. Smithies was born and raised in England. He obtained his BA in physiology from the University of Oxford in 1946 and went on to earn a PhD at Oxford in biochemistry. In 1951, he began a postdoctoral fellowship in physical chemistry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and in 1953 he joined the University of Toronto's Connaught Medical Research Laboratory as a research associate. During his tenure at Connaught, he developed gel electrophoresis, a technique that is still widely used today.

In 1960, Dr. Smithies became assistant professor of genetics and medical genetics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and he remained at that institution until 1988. He then moved to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where he still works today. His work on the gene targeting technique began in Wisconsin continued to a successful conclusion in North Carolina.

Throughout his distinguished career Dr. Smithies has won a multitude of honors. He is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and a Foreign Member of the Royal Society of London. Twice, in 1990 and 1993, he won a Gairdner Foundation International Award. In 2001 he received the Lasker Award, sharing the honor with Drs. Evans and Capecchi. In 2003 Dr. Smithies, Dr. Capecchi, and Dr. Ralph L. Brinster won the prestigious Wolf Prize in Medicine. Dr. Smithies has also received honorary doctorates from the University of Chicago and Duke University.