National Medal awarded to UCSF Chancellor at White House ceremony

14, 2005
Corinna Kaarlela

UCSF Chancellor J. Michael Bishop, MD, today (March 14) received the 2003 National Medal of Science at a White House ceremony. The medal is the nation' s highest honor for science and technology.

Bishop was one of eight medal winners honored. President George W. Bush presented the awards.

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.

Bishop and Varmus won the 1989 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. They also won the 1982 Albert Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research for their proto-oncogene work.

Bishop has served as member and chair of the National Cancer Advisory Board and is currently a member of the Advisory Committee to the Director of the National Institutes of Health.

He has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Medicine, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and he holds honorary degrees from Gettysburg College, Miami University, Rochester University and Harvard University.

He continues to teach medical students and supervise a research team studying the molecular pathogenesis of cancer. He is the author of more than 300 research publications and reviews, and of the book How to Win the Nobel Prize: An Unexpected Life in Science, published by Harvard University Press.

Of the eight 2003 medal recipients, three are from UC. Along with Bishop, they are R. Duncan Luce, professor of cognitive science at UC Irvine; and John M. Prausnitz, professor of chemical engineering at UC Berkeley.

Of the eight recipients, three are from the Bay Area. In addition to Bishop and Prausnitz, a medal was awarded to Charles Yanofsky, professor of biology at Stanford University.


* NSF Press Release -- Eight To Receive President's 2003 National Medal of Science:

* Photos and webcasts: Digital photos and webcasts scheduled to be available at:

* J Michael Bishop -- Autobiography:

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