Bishop named winner of national Medal of Science

By Carol Fox

UCSF Chancellor J. Michael Bishop, MD, has been named a recipient of the 2003 National Medal of Science, the nation’s highest honor for science and technology.

Bishop was among eight winners announced on Monday (Feb. 14) by President George W. Bush.

The honorees will receive the medals at a White House ceremony on March 14.

The National Medal of Science honors individuals in a variety of fields for pioneering scientific research that has led to a better understanding of the world, as well as to the innovations and technologies that give the United States its global economic edge. The National Science Foundation administers the award, established by Congress in 1959.

Bishop, who is also the Arthur and Toni Rembe Rock Distinguished Professor, University Professor, and Professor of Microbiology and Immunology at UCSF, began his research career working on the replication of poliovirus. But soon after arriving at UCSF in 1968, he shifted his attention to Rous sarcoma virus, hoping to explore the fundamental mechanisms of tumorigenesis. In 1970, he was joined by Harold Varmus.

Together, they directed the research that led to the discovery of proto-oncogenes—normal genes that can be converted to cancer genes by genetic damage. This work eventually led to the recognition that all cancer probably arises from damage to normal genes, and provided new strategies for the detection and treatment of cancer. Bishop has devoted his research to the study of proto-oncogenes—their functions in normal cells and the manner in which they become cancer genes.

Bishop and Varmus won the 1989 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. They also won the 1982 Albert Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research for their proto-oncogene work.

Bishop has served as member and chair of the National Cancer Advisory Board and is currently a member of the Advisory Committee to the Director of the National Institutes of Health.

He has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Medicine, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and he holds honorary degrees from Gettysburg College, Miami University, Rochester University and Harvard University.

He continues to teach medical students and supervise a research team studying the molecular pathogenesis of cancer.  He is the author of more than 300 research publications and reviews, and of the book How to Win the Nobel Prize: An Unexpected Life in Science, published by Harvard University Press.

Along with Bishop, two other UC scientists were named Monday as 2003 National Medal of Science Laureates: R. Duncan Luce, of UC Irvine, in the field of behavioral or social sciences; and John M. Prausnitz, UC Berkeley, in engineering.


* NSF Press Release - President Names Laureates of the 2003 National Medal of Science and National Medal of Technology: NSF Press Release

* J Michael Bishop - Autobiography: J. Michael Bishop