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Nobel Prizes remind us that science is a team effort

October 11, 2012

By Clay Holtzman, Hutchinson Center science writer

This week, the world is recognizing six scientists who are this year’s recipients of the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine, Physics and Chemistry.

Scientists around the world—including at Fred Hutch, home to three Nobel laureates—know that for every scientific breakthrough recognized by an award, there are countless advances that made the breakthrough possible.

For example, when Dr. E. Donnall Thomas, Director Emeritus of the Center’s Clinical Research division and pioneer behind bone marrow transplantation, concluded his Nobel acceptance remarks in 1990, he said: “I echo the sentiments of many previous Nobel laureates when I say that the success we celebrate today was made possible by the work of many others in this and in related fields.”

Dr. E. Donnall Thomas, 1990 Nobel laureate.

Thomas’ acknowledgement is fitting, as his research in bone marrow transplantation laid the groundwork for countless other discoveries in transplantation, immunotherapy, infection control and more.

Dr. Lee Hartwell, director emeritus and former president of Fred Hutch, also acknowledged the work of others in his 2001 Nobel acceptance speech.

“The proper metaphor for these awards is certainly the iceberg, the tip of the iceberg. It is very nice to be out here in the sunlight and getting all of this visibility, but I am incredibly aware of all of the people who have contributed to the work that the three of us will be describing today.”

Dr. Lee Hartwell, 2001 Nobel laureate.

The theme of credit and advancing research also struck me while reading through Fred Hutch’s latest advances in its 2011 annual report. Inside, you can learn about the Center’s latest work in pancreatic cancer, cord blood and prostate cancer. These discoveries may just make the next breakthrough possible.

Dr. Linda Buck, 2004 Nobel laureate.

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