Mario Capecchi on Jim Watson and his Students
  Mario Capecchi     Biography    
Recorded: 27 Feb 2003

After leaving Jim’s lab, I mean, I was initially a graduate student. And then I was what’s called a junior fellow at Harvard. But I stayed on in Jim’s lab after that. So that would have been from ’67 to ’69. And then after that I went to Harvard Medical School. I mean one of the stories there is that they offered me the position and the salary. I told Jim what the salary was. He was disgusted and called up the chairman and said, “You’d better raise his salary by at least three thousand dollars.” Which at that time was a lot of money.

Oh, they did it. Right away. So he actually also looks out for his people. And has done that all the way through. I think, you know, since leaving there I—not only at Cold Spring Harbor but also at meetings, Jim’s always been very supportive in terms of my career and what I’ve been doing. And keeps up with it. So he knows essentially what I’m doing and what the good parts are and what the bad [parts are.]

So I think its part of a family in that sense. I mean I think he looks at us as almost like his kids. And even though he has his own family.

Mario R. Capecchi, Ph.D., is a scientist and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator at the Eccles Institute of Human Genetics at the University of Utah Health Sciences Center and a founding member of the Brain Institute at the University of Utah. He also serves as the Distinguished Professor and Co-Chairman of Human Genetics and Biology at the University of Utah, where he joined the faculty in 1973.

In 2007 Mario Capecchi was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine with Oliver Smithies and Martin Evans for their research on gene targeting techniques, specifically working with mice embryo-derived stem cells. In the 1980s Capecchi pioneered a technology known as "knockout mice" which revolutionized genetic and biomedical research. This technology allows scientists to replace or disrupt specific genes in mice to understand how a similar gene disruption in humans may cause or contribute to diseases.

Capecchi, abandoned and homeless as a 4-year old child in Italy during World War II, was reunited with his mother and immigrated to the United States in 1946. After receiving a B.S. in physics and chemistry from Antioch College in 1961, he joined Jim Watson's Biological laboratory at Harvard University where he received a doctorate in biophysics in 1967. Capecchi remained at Harvard, first as a junior fellow until 1969, followed by four years as Assistant Professor in the Department of Biochemistry at Harvard School of Medicine, until he left for the University of Utah in 1973.

Capecchi is a member of the National Academy of Sciences (1991) and the European Academy of Sciences (2002). His other numerous honors include the Bristol-Myers Squibb Award for Distinguished Achievement in Neuroscience Research (1992), Gairdner Foundation International Award for Achievements in Medical Science (1993), General Motors Corporation's Alfred P. Sloan Jr. Prize for Outstanding Basic Science Contributions to Cancer Research (1994), Kyoto Prize in Basic Sciences (1996), the Franklin Medal for Advancing Our Knowledge of the Physical Sciences (1997), the University of Utah's Rosenblatt Prize for Excellence (1998), the Albert Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research (2001), the National Medal of Science (2001), the Wolf Prize in Medicine (2003), the Pezcoller Foundation-AACR (American Association for Cancer Research) International Award for Cancer Research (2003), and the March of Dimes Prize in Developmental Biology (2005).