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04.29.2015

Two Seattle scientists named to National Academy of Sciences

Fred Hutch cancer investigator and UW regenerative medicine researcher among the newly elected

By Leila Gray  |  HSNewsBeat  |  Updated 2:15 PM, 04.29.2015

Posted in: Community

  • Great Hall, with its domed ceiling, at the National Academy of Sciences building. NAS
The National Academy of Sciences this week announced its annual election of new members and foreign associates in recognition of their distinguished and continuing achievements in original research.

Among those named were Randall Moon, University of Washington professor of pharmacology, and Sue Biggins, a genetics and biology research at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle.

An Act of Congress, signed by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863, established the National Academy of Sciences as a private, non-profit society of distinguished scholars.  The Academy provides independent, objective advice to the nation on matters related to science and technology. Scientists are elected by their peers to membership in the NAS for outstanding contributions to research.

Moon and Biggins are among the 84 active members and 21 foreign associates elected April 28.  The Academy now has 2,250 active, voting members with U.S. citizenship and 452 foreign associates, who are non-voting members with citizenship outside the United States.

Moon was the founding director of the UW Institute for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine Research, where he also held the William and Marilyn Conner Chair.  He is also a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator.  Moon began his career as a developmental biologist, studying in fish, frogs and fruit flies the signals that direct the formation of embryos.  Many of these signals remain active in adults and play a role in maintaining healthy tissues and in recovery from injury.  They also are implicated in abnormal, cancerous growths.

Moon turned his attention to Wnt signaling to foster the regeneration of nerve and heart tissue.  His lab is also looking at modulating Wnt signaling in cancer as a potential therapeutic target, particularly for melanoma.    

Sue Biggins studies the cellular machinery that, when working properly, assures the accurate distribution of chromosomal material during cell division.  Improper separation of chromosomes in reproductive cells or embryonic cells can lead to congenital disorders, miscarriage and still birth. In blood and tissue cells, chromosome separation errors can sometimes create cancer cells.

Biggins and her team are credited with several important discoveries related to a cellular machine called the kinetochore.  This complex protein structure connects to and directs the movement of tiny fibers, called microtubules, whose pulling actions help arrange chromosomes before a cell divides.

The Biggins lab is interested in how cells build kinetochores. They also study the signals generated during cell division to control the attachment of microtubules to the kinetochores. The Biggins team collaborates with several UW research labs to explore the cellular and molecular mechanisms of chromosome sorting.

Biggins is an affiliate faculty member in the UW Department of Biochemistry.
Tagged with: biomedical research
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