Upstate Medical University's first Presidential Symposium

Mary Claire-King, PhD, the geneticist who discovered the BRCA1 gene that has been linked to increased breast cancer risk, will be the featured speaker at Upstate Medical University’s first Presidential Symposium Oct. 28 and 29. The event will be held at the CNY Biotech Accelerator, 841 E. Fayette St., Syracuse. The event is free and open to the public with free on-site parking available.

The two-day symposium will explore genetics and precision medicine and feature two presentations by King as well as discussions with other experts.

King, professor of medicine and genome sciences at the University of Washington, is one of the leading scientists of the day.

Upstate President Danielle Laraque-Arena, MD, FAAP, said King was not only an incredible scientist but also a human rights activist.  “Her visit will exemplify not only the highest level of science, but the application of science to do good,” Laraque-Arena said.

In 1990, King demonstrated that a single gene on chromosome 17q21 (which she named BRCA1) was responsible for breast and ovarian cancer in many families. Her discovery of BRCA1 revolutionized the study of numerous other common inherited diseases. The approach that King developed to identify BRCA1 has since proven valuable in the study of many other genetic diseases and conditions.

Her discovery has made it possible to screen for ovarian and breast cancers.

In addition to her genetic research on cancer, she has examined genetics of schizophrenia, genetic disorders in children and human evolution. She pioneered the use of DNA sequencing for human rights investigations. Her current research employs the use of experimental and bioinformatics genomics tools to study complex genetic diseases in humans.

In 1984 she and her laboratory worked on the Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo (Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo) in Argentina, using genetics to identify 59 of the missing children whose mothers “disappeared” under the Argentine military dictatorship.

She has been honored with some of science’s biggest prizes. This past May, President Barak Obama presented King with the National Medal of Science. In presenting the medal, Obama said, “Every single American should be grateful for Mary-Claire King’s path.”

Earlier this year, the National Foundation for Cancer Research presented King with the Szent-Gyorgi Prize for Progress in Cancer Research

Two years earlier she won the Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation Award, often known as America’s Nobel for her pioneering work on gene research.

Symposium schedule for Oct 28

1 p.m. Keynote address by Mary-Claire King

2 to 3 p.m. Presentations:

“Basic science foundations of personalized medicine,” Steven Glatt, PhD, Upstate Medical University;

“How science translates to medical applications,” Bernard Poiesz, MD, Upstate Medical University;

“Public health implications of personalized medicine,” Erasmus Schneider, PhD, Wadsworth Center, New York State Department of Health.

3 to 4 p.m. Open discussion with moderator Rinki Argarwal, MD, Upstate Medical University.

Symposium schedule for Oct. 29

8:30 to 9 a.m. Continental Breakfast

9 to 9:30 a.m. Keynote Address: “Scientists as Citizens of the World,” Mary Claire King, PhD, University of Wisconsin.

9:30 to 10:30 a.m. Open discussion with panelists Mark Polhemus, MD, and Anna Stewart-Ibarra, PhD, MPH, both represent Upstate’s Center for Global Health and Translational Science.