Beatrice Mintz, 100, of Philadelphia, a pioneering, award-winning research scientist in developmental biology and genetics, gene-transfer technology, epigenetics, and tumor microenvironment, died Monday, Jan. 3
From the Philadelphia Inquirer link above:
Taking into consideration the countless other experiments, observations, and achievements over her 75-year career, it is hard to overstate Dr. Mintz’s contributions to developmental cancer biology and genetics research, other scientists said. They called her work “otherworldly,” “innovative,” “unprecedented,” “extraordinary,” and “unequaled,” and said that her method of using animal models to study human cancer changed modern medicine.
“She was unique in that she was foundational in more than one field,” said Jonathan Chernoff, cancer center director at Fox Chase. “She was still productive into her 90s, and was a solo act the whole time.”
From the National Foundation for Cancer Research:
Dr. Mintz spent over 50 years at what is now the Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, much of that time as the Jack Schultz Chair in Basic Science. Her contributions to the field of cancer research are myriad. Among other impacts, Dr. Mintz’s work enabled the study of cancer and other genetic diseases to be carried out within the framework of the whole organism. “Bea,” as she was affectionately known to her associates, was responsible for not one but rather multiple transformative scientific breakthroughs and discoveries. These include:
– Development of the first transgenic mice—that is to say, mice with foreign (such as human) DNA as part of their makeup.
– Demonstration of the importance of stem cells to the development of an organism.
– Proof that the stem cell of a teratocarcinoma (a cancer of the testis) can be effectively “reprogrammed” into a normal cell when injected into a mouse embryo, with the result being a healthy mouse with no trace of cancer.
Each of these “firsts” has transformed basic laboratory research and been applied not only in medical science but also in such other areas as animal husbandry and agriculture. Crops genetically modified to resist drought or pests, for example, are direct descendants of Dr. Mintz’s work on mice in the lab.
Fox Chase Cancer Center
But accolades were never the point. The point, Mintz says, is “simply the pursuit of a series of questions that I’ve enjoyed answering.”
“She was a throwback to an earlier type of independent solo artist,” Dr. Chernoff said. “She did everything herself, built her own equipment, injected microscopic mouse eggs herself, and she personally looked after all her mice, which was probably for the better because she would notice key details that might otherwise have escaped detection.”