Mary-Claire King, PhD

2011 The Wallace H. Coulter Lectureship Award

Endowed by the Wallace H. Coulter Foundation

Dr. Mary-Claire King is professor of genome sciences and of medicine at the University of Washington in Seattle, where she studies the interaction of genetics and environmental influences on conditions such as cancer, HIV, lupus, and inherited deafness. In the research community, Dr. King is perhaps best known for her 1990 discovery of the BRCA1 gene locus for hereditary breast cancer. This discovery was a landmark in our understanding of the role of genetics in the development of breast cancer. It opened new avenues for biological research in human cancer, revealed new cellular pathways, and offered new diagnostic strategies for women in high-risk families. She is also known for her work demonstrating that humans and chimpanzees are 99% genetically identical. She has demonstrated another practical application of her work by using genomic sequencing to identify victims of human rights abuses. Working with the families of “the disappeared” in Argentina, Dr. King used genetic methods to identify many children whose parents had been killed and reunite them with their grandparents. She has served on numerous government panels including the National Cancer Institute’s Breast Cancer Task Force, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Genome Study Section, the NIH Office of Research on Women’s Health Advisory Board, the United Nations War Crimes Tribunal, and the U.N. Forensic Anthropology Team. Her work with private organizations includes serving on the scientific advisory board of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Minority Medical Faculty Development Program.