News Releases

Geneticist and inventor Steven Henikoff named AAAS Fellow

He is a researcher in the Hutchinson Center’s Basic Sciences Division

Dr. Steven Henikoff, Basic Sciences Division

Dr. Steven Henikoff, Basic Sciences Division

SEATTLE – Nov. 30, 2012 – Steven Henikoff, Ph.D., a geneticist, biologist and inventor at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, has been named a 2012 Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, or AAAS. Election as a Fellow is an honor bestowed upon AAAS members by their peers.

Henikoff, a member of the Hutchinson Center’s Basic Sciences Division, is being honored for “distinguished contributions to chromatin biology, centromere structure, nucleosome stability and plant epigenetics, which have had widespread influence in several fields.”

“Steve is a true innovator. He’s developed methods for analyzing DNA sequences and chromatin that have profoundly influenced work here at the Hutchinson Center and in laboratories around the world,” said Jonathan Cooper, Ph.D., director of the Basic Sciences Division. “What’s more, he had the courage to invest time and effort on some rather obscure patterns of inheritance that defy Mendel’s laws of heredity. As a result, he has discovered new ways that genes are regulated in human and animal cells. He’s a valued colleague and a wonderful mentor.”

Henikoff’s research has long focused on epigenetics – investigating how patterns of gene activity can change and then propagate through generations without any corresponding change in DNA sequence. He uses fruit flies and plants to study these heritable changes, which are reversible. This suggests the possibility that some aspects of cancer may also be reversed.

He also is the inventor of widely used computer programs and other research tools that have fostered breakthroughs in many areas of medicine. His inventions, which include databases for making sense of DNA sequence information, have been indispensable to biologists from all disciplines, from those who study metabolic pathways in yeast to researchers who seek clues to the origins of cancer.

Henikoff studies some of the oldest problems in chromosome research using innovative strategies designed in his own laboratory. He is credited with helping build the infrastructure for analyzing the human genome and was among the first to realize that computing and the Internet had the power to revolutionize the way biological research is done.

Other honors Henikoff has received include election to the National Academy of Sciences, the highest honor for a U.S. scientist.

Henikoff, who is also a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator and an affiliate professor of Genome Sciences at the University of Washington School of Medicine, is among 702 AAAS Fellows selected this year for their “scientifically or socially distinguished efforts to advance science or its applications.”

For their contributions they will be presented with an official certificate and gold and blue (representing science and engineering, respectively) rosette pin Feb. 16 at the Fellows Forum during the 2013 AAAS Annual Meeting in Boston.

Other AAAS Fellows from the Hutchinson Center’s Basic Sciences Division include: Roger Brent, Ph.D.; Nobel laureate Linda Buck, Ph.D.; Robert Eisenman, Ph.D.; Mark T. Groudine, M.D., Ph.D., executive vice president and deputy director of the Hutchinson Center; Maxine L. Linial, Ph.D.; Paul Neiman, Ph.D. and Gerald Smith, Ph.D.

Others include Denise Galloway, Ph.D., of the Human Biology and Public Health Sciences divisions; M. Elizabeth Halloran, M.D., M.P.H., of the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Division; John Potter, M.D., Ph.D., former head of the Center’s Public Health Sciences Division; and Meng-Chao Yao, Ph.D., formerly of the Center’s Basic Sciences Division who is now head of the Institute of Molecular Biology, Academia Sinica, in Taipei, Taiwan.

The AAAS is the world’s largest general scientific society and publisher of the journal Science. The organization was founded in 1848 and the tradition of electing AAAS Fellows began in 1874.

Note for media only: A photo of Henikoff is available upon request.

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At Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, home to three Nobel laureates, interdisciplinary teams of world-renowned scientists seek new and innovative ways to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer, HIV/AIDS and other life-threatening diseases. The Hutchinson Center’s pioneering work in bone marrow transplantation led to the development of immunotherapy, which harnesses the power of the immune system to treat cancer with minimal side effects. An independent, nonprofit research institute based in Seattle, the Hutchinson Center houses the nation’s first and largest cancer prevention research program, as well as the clinical coordinating center of the Women’s Health Initiative and the international headquarters of the HIV Vaccine Trials Network. Private contributions are essential for enabling Hutchinson Center scientists to explore novel research opportunities that lead to important medical breakthroughs. For more information visit www.fhcrc.org or follow the Hutchinson Center on Facebook, Twitter or YouTube.

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