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Mario R. Capecchi Ph.D. speaker

The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2007
Nobel prize also awarded to Sir Martin J. Evans and Oliver Smithies
National Medal of Science - Biological Sciences 2001

Molecular Geneticist. Introduced specific gene modifications in mice by using embryonic stem cells. Gene Targeting, Homeobox Genes, Development, Behavior.

Mother incarcerated as political prisoner, Germany. "At age 4½, I set off on my own, living in streets, orphanages; joining gangs of homeless children; generally hungry. Vivid recollections, brutal beyond description."


  1. “… despite the complete absence of an early nurturing environment, the intrinsic drive to make a difference in our world is not easily quenched and that given an opportunity, early handicaps can be overcome and dreams achieved. …”

  2. “Despite the fact that James Watson was responsible for all of the resources needed to run his laboratory, if you did all of the work for a given paper, then you were the sole author on that paper. Among all of the laboratory heads in the world, I believe that Jim Watson was among very few in implementing this policy.”

  3. “James Watson would later offer the very complimentary comment "that Capecchi accomplished more as a graduate student than most scientists accomplish in a lifetime." It was, indeed, a productive time, but it wasn't work; it was sheer joy.”

  4. “In 1980, I submitted a grant application to the National Institute of Health proposing to test the feasibility of such gene targeting … These experiments were emphatically discouraged by the reviewers… By 1984 we had good evidence that gene targeting in cultured mammalian cells indeed occurs. …, I submitted another grant application to the same National Institute of Health study section that had rejected our earlier proposed gene targeting experiments. Their response was “We are glad that you didn't follow our advice.”

  5. “Go with your gut.”

  6. “… I make decisions which do not limit my options in the future…”

  7. “As a people, we must learn to become more responsible for the consequences of our activities over much longer periods of time so that future generations may also enjoy this splendid world. It is my hope that science can combine with ethics to permit this.”

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Photo: © Nobel Foundation

Name: Mario Ramberg Capecchi Ph.D.
Birth: 6 October 1937, Verona, Italy
Institution: University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT, USA, Howard Hughes Medical Institute
Award: "for their discoveries of principles for introducing specific gene modifications in mice by the use of embryonic stem cells"
Subject: Genetics
Portion of cash: 1/2
National Medal of Science - Biological Sciences 2001
Mentor: James Watson
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