Mary Beckerle has served as Chief Executive Officer at Huntsman Cancer Institute since 2006. She is a cell biologist recognized for her work on cell adhesion and cytoskeletal regulation. Beckerle graduated from Wells College in Aurora, New York in 1976 with degrees in biology and psychology, and from the University of Colorado, Boulder in 1982 with a PhD in molecular, cellular, and developmental biology. She was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. She joined the University of Utah faculty in 1986 where she holds the Jon M. Huntsman Presidential Endowed Chair. Beckerle served as president of the American Society for Cell Biology and is a member of the Board of Scientific Advisors of the National Cancer Institute (NCI). Beckerle received the Alfred G. Knudson Award in Cancer Genetics from NCI and was a Guggenheim Fellow. She is an elected fellow of the American Academy for Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, and the Academy of the American Association for Cancer Research. She is also a member of the Scientific Review Board of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and was elected as a member of the National Academy of Sciences in 2021.

Research Interests

Mary Beckerle has focused her scientific career on the discovery and characterization of pathways that control how cells sense and respond to signals generated at sites of cell adhesion. She discovered zyxin, a cytoskeletal LIM protein, and showed that it regulates cell motility and shuttles between cell adhesion sites and the nucleus. Beckerle and her collaborators were the first to describe the structure and function of the LIM domain, a double zinc-finger motif found in hundreds of proteins. She advanced the paradigm that LIM proteins can have dual roles in cytoarchitecture and regulation of gene expression. In addition, Beckerle conducted pioneering work to define pathways by which cells respond to mechanical stress, including the discovery of a novel mechanism used by cells to recognize and reinforce sites of actin cytoskeletal strain. Her team employs diverse experimental models, ranging from individual cells to genetically accessible model systems. Bridging basic mechanistic findings to the field of cancer biology, Beckerle's group described a central role for a cytoskeletal maintenance pathway in the pathogenesis of Ewing sarcoma. This work contributed to the scientific rationale for development of a novel targeted therapy for Ewing sarcoma that has been tested in a first-in-human clinical trial.

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Primary Section

Section 22: Cellular and Developmental Biology

Secondary Section

Section 21: Biochemistry