Elizabeth Blackburn co-Discoverer of Telomerase: Women’s History Month Day 19

“The argument has been that the pipeline will take care of this.  But the pipeline has been good for a number of years, and it hasn’t taken care of it. In biology it’s especially insidious because 50 percent of grad students are female. This has been the case for quite some time. Yet when I was chair of my department, I was the only woman chair in the entire medical school. We are putting a lot of our students off continuing—both men and women, but more women. They vote with their feet.”

Elizabeth Blackburn, along with Carol Greider, discovered the enzyme telomerase.  Telomerase maintains the blocks of DNA and protein called telomeres which prevent vital genes from being lopped off during cell division.  Her research has shown that telomerase does not shut off in cancer cells and the cells become immortal.  Normally telomerase production stops after a while and cells die. 

Ms. Blackburn is the Morris Herzstein Professor of Biology and Physiology at UCSF, serving in both the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, and the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics. She is also a Non-Resident Fellow of the Salk Institute.

Quote from Discover Magazine, Why Science Must Adapt To Women by Peggy Orenstein, November 2002.
Mini-bio compiled from Discover Magazine The 50 Most Important Women in Science by Kathy A. Svitil, November 2002 and Academy of Achievement, Elizabeth Blackburn Biography.
Photo from Academy of Achievement.

Elizabeth Blackburn, co-Discoverer of Telomerase


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