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 1988.