Supported by the Irving Weinstein Foundation, this lectureship has been established to acknowledge an individual whose outstanding innovations in science and whose position as a thought leader have the potential to inspire creative thinking and new directions in cancer research.
This lectureship is selected by the AACR president, and is not open to nomination.
Ninth Annual Award Recipient
Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard, Ph.D.
Director of Department Genetics
Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology
Dr. Nüsslein-Volhard delivered her lecture titled, The Development of Colour Patterns in Zebrafish: Toward an Understanding of the Evolution of Beauty, during the AACR Annual Meeting 2013 in Washington, D.C., in the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. The award ceremony and lecture was held on Saturday, April 6, 2013, from 5:30 p.m.-6:30 p.m. Visit the AACR Annual Meeting 2013 page for more information on the Annual Meeting.
- View list of all past lectureship recipients.
Dr. Nüsslein-Volhard is recognized for her paradigm-setting discoveries in the field of developmental genetics. Her transformative research has made a deep impact on our understanding of the mechanisms controlling normal development and paved the way for those working to unravel the complexities of cancer, which we now know to be a normal biological process gone awry.
Dr. Nüsslein-Volhard made her groundbreaking discovery about how genes control the early development of embryos, for which she shared the Nobel Prize for Medicine or Physiology in 1995 with Eric Wieschaus, Ph.D., and Edward B. Lewis, Ph.D. Even as a school student, she had a fascination for biology and after earning her doctorate, she began studying genetic mutations in the fruit fly, Drosophila. Along with her colleague, Wieschaus, she studied the pattern of body segments in each mutant and associated them with genes involved in the different processes of development based on their mutant phenotypes. Together, they identified the genes responsible for embryonic development in Drosophila and assembled a catalog of more than 300 mutations that cause developmental defects. Dr. Nüsslein-Volhard’s work with fruit flies has enabled scientists to understand the causes of congenital malformations in human beings.
After conducting further research on Drosophila genetics, she shifted to studying the basic patterns of genetic development in zebrafish with the goal of establishing a system for the genetic analysis of vertebrate development. Her interest in zebrafish was based on certain unique qualities found in them, such as the presence of a rudimentary spinal cord, a transparent embryo, short breeding span and development of embryos outside the mother’s body. She currently has about 10,000 aquaria with more than 500,000 fish, and she, along with her team of 16 researchers, published a collection of 22 research articles on the genetic basis of development of zebrafish, providing valuable information for researchers studying similar genetic mutations in humans. She wrote a book "Coming to life: How genes drive development" (250 pp, Kales Press, 2006) in which she explains the basic principles of development, genetics and evolution. The book includes chapters on human development, cancer, human embryonic stem cells, cloning and gene therapy.
Dr. Nüsslein-Volhard continues to explore the zebrafish as a model for the study of developmental genetics in vertebrates with a focus on the formation of shape and color pattern of the adult fish.
Dr. Nüsslein-Volhard received her doctorate in biology and genetics in 1973 from Eberhard-Karl University, Tübingen, and accepted her first independent research position at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Heidelberg, Germany. She returned to Tübingen in 1981, and has served as the director of the genetics division of the Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology since 1985.
In addition to the Nobel Prize, Nüsslein-Volhard has received numerous other awards, including the Albert Lasker Medical Research Award, the Prix Louis Jeantet de Médecine and the Ernst Schering Prize. She was awarded honorary degrees by Yale, Harvard, Princeton and Rockefeller Universities; Utrecht University in the Netherlands; University College London, Oxford and Sheffield in the United Kingdom; and Freiburg and Munich Universities in Germany.
She is a foreign member of the National Academy of Sciences and the Royal Society London. She is also a member of the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO), the German Academy of Sciences Leopoldina, the Order Pour Le Mérite, the Académie des Sciences and the scientific council of the European Research Council. She was member of the German National Ethics Council until 2007 and the secretary general of EMBO until 2009. She was elected vice chancellor of the Order Pour Le Mérite in 2010. She founded the Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard-Foundation in 2004, supporting talented female graduate students with children.