Hockfield Cancer Research Prize

Hockfield speaking at a lectern

The Hockfield Cancer Research Prize is awarded biannually to an individual who has made significant contributions to cancer research or cancer advocacy, and to mentorship in the field. The prize is named for Dr. Susan Hockfield, who served as MIT’s sixteenth president and was both the first life scientist and first woman in that role. During her tenure, she distinguished herself as a champion for breakthroughs emerging from the historic convergence of the life sciences with the engineering and physical sciences, in fields from clean energy to cancer, including the founding of the Koch Institute, IMES, and the Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT and Harvard. With her vision and support for a collaborative, interdisciplinary cancer research model, she was a driving force in transforming the former MIT Center for Cancer Research into the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research and helping the institute become the gold standard for convergence.

The 2023 Hockfield Cancer Research Prize 

Sue Desmond-Hellmann

The inaugural Hockfield Prize is awarded to Sue Desmond-Hellmann, MD, MPH, a pioneer in cancer research for more than 30 years. She served as the Chief Executive Officer of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation from 2014–2020. Dr. Desmond-Hellmann was previously Chancellor of the University of California, San Francisco—the first woman to hold the position—and the Arthur and Toni Rembe Rock Distinguished Professor. She also served as the President of Product Development at Genentech, where she led the development of the first gene-targeted cancer drugs.

Dr. Desmond-Hellmann has driven major advancements toward the eradication of disease, poverty, and inequity. Dr. Desmond-Hellmann, an oncologist by training, treated and researched AIDS-related cancer in San Francisco and Uganda in the 1980s and early 1990s. During her tenure at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Dr. Desmond-Hellmann oversaw the creation of the Gates Medical Research Institute—the world’s first nonprofit biotech organization—and the launch of the Economic Mobility and Opportunity investment strategy in the United States.

Award Lecture: Herceptin after 25 Years

Dr. Desmond-Hellmann will present her award lecture, "Herceptin after 25 Years," in the Luria Auditorium (76-156)  at the Koch Institute on September 15, 2023, 10:00 a.m.–11:00 a.m. She will discuss her lead role in the development of the first gene-targeted cancer drugs at Genentech and the evolution of the field to the present day. Koch Institute and MIT community members are welcome to attend.

About Susan Hockfield

Susan Hockfield

Susan Hockfield, PhD is Professor of Neuroscience and President Emerita at MIT. As the sixteenth president (2004-2012), she was the first woman and the first life scientist to lead the Institute. After earning degrees from the University of Rochester and Georgetown University School of Medicine, Dr. Hockfield was an NIH postdoctoral fellow at the University of California at San Francisco before joining the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory scientific staff. In 1985, Hockfield became a faculty member at Yale University, where she was the William Edward Gilbert Professor of Neurobiology, Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (1998-2002), and Provost (2003-2004). Her research focused on brain development and glioma (brain tumors), pioneering the use of monoclonal antibody technology in brain research. 

Nationally, Dr. Hockfield is a leader and long-time champion of scientific convergence, the advancement of women in science, and public support and funding of research.  She helped shape national policy for energy and next-generation manufacturing, including as President Obama’s appointee to co-chair the steering committee of the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership, and as a member of a 2015 Congressional Commission evaluating the Department of Energy laboratories. Hockfield has also served as a U.S. Science Envoy with the U.S. Department of State, promoting public private partnerships to improve collaboration and the importance of competition in driving innovation. Active in science’s professional and corporate exercise, Hockfield is former president and an elected fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, an elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and serves on several industry and non-profit boards. She is a co-founder of the Faculty Founders Initiative, which aims to increase the number of woman-founded companies in biotech, and the author of The Age of Living Machineswhich offers a glimpse into a possible future driven by the convergence of biology and engineering.