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Seminar: Mary-Claire King, PhD

Dr. King is the American Cancer Society Professor in the Departments of Genome Sciences and Medicine at the University of Washington. She studies the genetics of complex, common human conditions. Her primary areas of interest are breast and ovarian cancer and genetic influences on major mental illness, especially schizophrenia. She was the first scientist to show that breast cancer is inherited in some families as the result of mutations in the BRCA1 gene. This discovery and her subsequent research on the genetics of schizophrenia and of hearing loss have helped transform the understanding of complex disease inheritance. Recognized as a pioneer in the development of DNA sequencing for human rights investigations, Dr. King has carried out identification of victims of human rights violations for the United Nations War Crimes Tribunal. She has served as consultant to the Commission on the Disappearance of Persons of the Republic of Argentina.

Dr. King joined the faculty of the University of Washington in 1995. Prior to that, she was professor of genetics at the University of California, Berkeley from 1976 to 1995. She is past president of the American Society of Human Genetics and has served on numerous government panels and with private organizations, including the National Academy of Sciences, the National Institutes of Health, the National Cancer Institute, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. She also has served on the editorial boards or reviewing panels of many publications, including Science and Nature.

Dr. King’s exceptional research contributions have been recognized by numerous awards and prizes, including: The Paul Ehrlich and Ludwig Darmstaedter Prize, the American Society of Clinical Oncology Basic Science Award, the American Cancer Society Medal of Honor for Clinical Research, the Weizmann Institute Award for Women and Science, the Gruber Prize in Genetics, the Pearl Meister Greengard Prize, the Heineken Prize for Medicine, the Clowes Award for Basic Research, and the University of California Medal. In 2014, she received the Lasker Special Achievement Award for Medical Research and in 2016, the United States National Medal of Science. Dr. King is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the National Academy of Medicine, and a foreign member of the French Academy of Sciences.


  • Mary-Claire King headshot
    Mary-Claire King, PhD

    Senior Associate Core Member
    New York Genome Center
    American Cancer Society Professor in the Departments of Genome Sciences and Medicine
    University of Washington in Seattle

    "Genetics of Schizophrenia in the South Africa Xhosa"
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