“I am honored to be elected to the Royal Society,” says Cairns. “I am very grateful to all my lab members for their contributions, and I share the credit for this honor with them.”
Cairns is one of eighty new members announced earlier this month. An election to the Fellows of The Royal Society is one of the most prestigious honors for a British-Commonwealth scientist and is comparable to the National Academy of Sciences in the United States. Nominations come from peers who live in Commonwealth countries, and the selection process is based on the entire history of a person’s scientific accomplishments. While Cairns lives in the United States, he is a dual American and Canadian citizen. Canada is a British Commonwealth.
“It is very satisfying to see that our research is influencing science in the UK and other countries,” says Cairns.
Founded in 1660, the society was created to support and recognize excellence in science as it is used to benefit humanity. Members of the society have played a part in some of the most well-known scientific discoveries throughout history. Past members include Sir Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, and Stephen Hawking.
Cairns’ research has benefited many. His findings have included fundamental contributions to understanding the process of gene packaging, unpackaging, and expression. These processes are important in all cells because cancer often forms if they become misregulated. According to Cairns, 20% of all human tumors have a mutation in the unpackaging machine that his team works on. During his time as a graduate student at Stanford University, Cairns identified and isolated the first gene unpackaging machine, and he has been working on it ever since. His lab has also made fundamental contributions to our understanding of gene packaging and unpackaging in the germline (sperm and egg cells) and in early embryos.
“Dr. Cairns is an exceptional leader and highly regarded scientist at Huntsman Cancer Institute, and the U. His work on gene packaging and epigenetics has been a true breakthrough in both cancer development, and in human fertility,” says Cornelia Ulrich, PhD, chief scientific officer and executive director of the Comprehensive Cancer Center at Huntsman Cancer Institute. “We are thrilled for him to receive this world-class recognition.”
Cairns has spent his entire career as a faculty member at Huntsman Cancer Institute and the U, specifically the Spencer Fox Eccles School of Medicine.
“I want to share my credit and gratitude with Huntsman Cancer Institute and the U, as well as the leaders at our institution who make it an exceptional place to conduct innovative and collaborative research,” says Cairns.
He joins Christopher Hacon, PhD, distinguished professor in the Department of Mathematics at the U, as the second current faculty member to be elected. Venki Ramakrishnan, PhD, who is a Nobel Laureate and former biochemistry professor from 1995-1999 was elected after he left the U for Cambridge.
About Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah
Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah (the U) is the official cancer center of Utah and the only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center in the Mountain West. The institute is leading the world in scientific discovery, and turning it into unsurpassed cancer care, transforming hope into a reality. Huntsman Cancer Institute focuses on delivering a cancer-free frontier to Utah, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, and Wyoming (The Area We Serve). Huntsman Cancer Institute is home to over 300 clinical trials, with over 237 research teams studying cancer at any given time and more genes for inherited cancers have been discovered at Huntsman Cancer Institute than at any other cancer center. Huntsman Cancer Institute’s scientists are world renown for understanding how cancer begins and using that knowledge to develop innovative approaches to treat each patient’s unique tumor. Huntsman Cancer Institute was founded by Jon M. and Karen Huntsman.