Angelika Amon, PhD, a renowned molecular and cell biologist whose work revealed important mechanisms of cell division and growth, died October 29, 2020, at the age of 53.
Amon was born January 10, 1967, in Vienna, Austria. She received her bachelor’s degree in biology in 1989 and her PhD in 1993, both from the University of Vienna. She came to the United States to conduct postdoctoral research at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She was named a Whitehead Fellow in 1996.
In 1999, Amon joined the faculty of the MIT Department of Biology and the MIT Center for Cancer Research, the predecessor to the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research. Amon went on to become a full professor, as well as the Kathleen and Curtis Marble Professor in Cancer Research, associate director of the Paul F. Glenn Center for Biology of Aging Research at MIT, a member of the Ludwig Center for Molecular Oncology at MIT, and an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.
Amon’s research focused on the cell cycle, elucidating the way in which cyclins break down and allow cells to exit mitosis. She also explored aneuploidy, the erroneous rearrangement of chromosomes during cell division. While aneuploidy is most commonly associated with Down syndrome, Amon investigated its role in a wider range of health conditions, including cancer. She established that aneuploidy disrupts the cells’ typical repair systems, allowing for genetic mutations. Amon’s work on the link between Down syndrome and acute lymphoblastic leukemia led to her being named codirector of the Alana Down Syndrome Center at MIT.
Amon became a member of the AACR in 2011. She was a member of the Stand Up To Cancer Scientific Advisory Committee since 2008 and a member of Women in Cancer Research (WICR) since 2013. In 2016, she was honored with the AACR-WICR Charlotte Friend Memorial Lectureship.
Amon was also recognized with the Eli Lilly and Company Research Award and the National Science Foundation Alan T. Waterman Award in 2003; the ASBMB Amgen Award and the Paul Marks Prize for Cancer Research in 2007; the National Academy of Sciences Award in Molecular Biology in 2008; the Ernst Jung Prize for Medicine in 2013; and the Genetics Society of America Medal in 2014.
In 2019, Amon was awarded the Vilcek Prize in Biomedical Science and the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences. She was also named to the Carnegie Corporation of New York’s annual list of Great Immigrants, Great Americans. She received the Nakasone Award from the Human Frontier Science Program in 2020. She mentored more than 80 students and received the MIT School of Science’s undergraduate teaching prize.
Amon was a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Sciences, and an elected foreign associate to the European Molecular Biology Organization and the Austrian Academy of Sciences.