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Cell Dynamics and New Cancer Drugs Topic of 2005 Porter Lecture at the MBL

WOODS HOLE, MA—Timothy J. Mitchison, Hassib Sabbagh Professor of Systems Biology at Harvard Medical School and Co-Director of the MBL's Physiology Course, will present the annual Porter Lecture of the 2005 Friday Evening Lecture Series, on June 24 at 8:00 PM in the MBL's Lillie Auditorium, located on MBL Street in Woods Hole.  His lecture is titled “Cell Division: From Inoué to New Cancer Drugs.”  The presentation is free and open to the public. Thoru Pederson, the Vitold Arnett Professor of Cell Biology in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Pharmacology, and Director of the Worcester Foundation at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, will introduce Dr. Mitchison.

When splitting chromosomes in two during division, cells assemble a beautiful structure called the mitotic spindle.  The dynamic nature of spindles was discovered by MBL Distinguished Scientist Shinya Inoué in the 1950s using polarization microscopy. Dr. Mitchison is interested in the mechanism of cell division, and how we can exploit differences in cell division between normal and cancer cells to develop more effective and less toxic anti-cancer drugs.

Recently, Dr. Mitchion started working with chemists to make drugs that disrupt spindles in new ways. His lab probes spindle dynamics using microscopy and biochemistry, trying to discover how it is built, and how it works.  Dangerous cancer cells often have defects in spindle organization, and Dr. Mitchison believes it will be possible to make drugs that block cell division in cancer cells, while sparing normal dividing cells.

Dr. Mitchison  received a B.A. in Biochemistry from Merton College, Oxford in 1980 and a Ph.D. in Biochemistry and Biophysics from the University of California, San Francisco in 1984.  After completing a postdoctoral research fellowship in the department of Biochemistry at the University of California, San Francisco, Mitchison served as an Independent Research Fellow at the National Institute for Medical Research, London from 1985 to 1986.  He joined the faculty of the University of California, San Francisco in 1987, and moved to Harvard Medical School in 1997.  Mitchison is a Fellow of the Royal Society, a member of the American Society of Cell Biology, and the recipient of several honors and awards, including the Packard Research Fellowship, and the Searle Scholarship.

The annual Porter Lecture is held in honor of Dr. Keith Roberts Porter, a former Director of the MBL considered by many to be the "Father" of the field of cell biology. It is sponsored by the Keith R. Porter Endowment whose goal is to support communication and education in cell biology.

The Friday Evening Lecture Series will continue throughout the summer at the MBL.  The remaining lectures in the series as well as full abstracts and speaker bios can be found here.

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The Marine Biological Laboratory is an internationally known, independent, nonprofit institution dedicated to improving the human condition through creative research and education in the biological, biomedical and environmental sciences. Founded in 1888, the MBL is the oldest private marine laboratory in the Western Hemisphere.