The UCSD pharmacology, chemistry and biochemistry professor and Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator has dedicated his life and career to cancer research, making incredible strides in the field that is near and dear to his heart.
His drive to advance existing cancer remedies and treatments stems from a firsthand experience watching his own father battle prostate cancer and ultimately lose his life to pancreatic cancer.
“My motivation to help develop new, more effective cancer treatments comes from my knowledge of the limitations of current therapies,” he said. “I’ve also always wanted to do something clinically relevant in my career, if possible, and cancer is the ultimate challenge.”
In taking on that challenge, Tsien and his fellow 2008 Nobel laureates made a ground-breaking discovery — the Green Flourescent Protein (GFP), which Tsien and his colleagues used to develop a fluorescent molecule that can enter cells and illuminate its inner workings. The glowing marker allows researchers and scientists to monitor movements, positions and interactions of tagged proteins within cells, which has become a vital tagging tool used in bioscience.
His initial discovery led him to focus on finding new strategies to target imaging agents or chemotherapy drugs to cancerous tumors.
“Dr. Tsien’s work is an important element in the battle against cancer,” said Kylor Schlaht, co-chair of this year’s Luau and Longboard Invitational. “In addition to what he does in his lab, biomedical researchers worldwide utilize the multicolored fluorescent proteins he helped develop, and for which he won the Nobel Prize, to track the inner workings of cells and help shed light on how cells function.”
Among Tsien’s previous honors are the J. Allyn Taylor International Prize in Medicine, the Lewis S. Rosenstiel Award for Distinguished Work in Basic Medical Science, and election as a Foreign Member of the Royal Society of London.