Tim Mitchison is a systems biologist and a
pioneer in the study of cell division. As a graduate student, he
proposed the idea of "dynamic instability" in
microtubules. The paradigm-shifting concept that microtubules can
switch between growing and shrinking, along with his subsequent
discoveries, had a profound effect on the understanding of an
important cellular process.
In recent years, Mitchison has been applying his experimental
and theoretical expertise on cell division's key molecular
players and basic biophysical processes, particularly those related
to the mitotic spindle, to the design of anticancer drugs. He
discovered several small-molecule drug leads, including an
inhibitor of cell division that progressed to a promising new class
of experimental anticancer drugs. After the drug class ultimately
failed in the clinic, Mitchison returned to his basic studies to
investigate how chemotherapy drugs work at the cellular level in
mouse cancer models.
At Harvard Medical School, Mitchison is the Hasib Sabbagh
Professor of Systems Biology and deputy chair of the department of
systems biology, which he helped found along with the Institute of
Chemistry and Cell Biology.
Mitchison received a B.A. in biochemistry in 1980 from the
University of Oxford in England and a Ph.D. in biochemistry and
biophysics in 1984 from the University of California, San
Francisco, where he also did postdoctoral research.
Mitchison is a former Searle scholar, a fellow of the Royal
Society and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
In addition to these honors, he is also a past president of the
American Society for Cell Biology.
Mitchison has received NIGMS support for his research since