Mario Capecchi on Jim Watson, Mentor: Publishing Papers
  Mario Capecchi     Biography    
Recorded: 27 Feb 2003

I think most of us don’t have essentially, you know, we feel we need to have papers being published all the time for us to get grants. And Jim simply, you know, if you did the work then you got the complete credit. So, you know, very quickly essentially people started to know who Capecchi was simply because here I would publish a paper and there’s Capecchi’s name. If it was Capecchi and Watson people would look at it and they would remember it as Watson. Whereas here he’s putting us upfront and so that made us essentially very confident and also that we’ve got credit for the work that we did. And I think that’s a remarkable property. And there’s very people, scientists that continue—I don’t do it myself. I should. I usually do it for opposite. That is if I don’t the paper is very good then I don’t want my name on it rather than he simply saying—he’s generous and says, you know, if you’ve done it. It’s yours. You should be getting credit for it. So that’s a laudable part of Jim and he’s been consistent with it throughout his own life. And as a consequence there are not many papers that he’s actually published since the double helix, but on the other hand everybody knows that he’s run one of the best labs in the world.

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).