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Mary-Claire King, PhD, professor of Medicine and Genome Sciences in the UW School of Medicine, was awarded the 2021 Canada Gairdner Award for transforming cancer genetics and oncology with the discovery of inherited susceptibility to breast cancer due to mutation of the BRCA1 gene.

This award recognizes world-renowned scientists for transformative contributions to research impacting human health.


King’s discovery of the BRCA1 gene has transformed the diagnosis, drug development and treatment of inherited breast and ovarian cancer. The identification of BRCA1 and BRCA2 has made it possible to diagnose whether a woman in an affected family is at extremely high risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer, enabling her to pursue preventative treatment.

King’s interdisciplinary approach integrated tools from genetics, statistics, mathematics, epidemiology, molecular biology, genomics and clinical medicine. Her approach to gene discovery has had an impact on many other diseases, ranging from prostate cancer to inherited hearing loss to schizophrenia. King is also a pioneer in the development of DNA sequencing for the identification of victims of human rights’ violations.

Read more on the UW Medicine Newsroom.