Mario Capecchi

"Science progresses from the shared expertise and skills of the community," said Mario Capecchi, the 2007 Nobel laureate in physiology, during a speech at the Benning Society's inaugural public lecture in medicine.

Using the expertise and skills at the University of Utah, the Benning Society is hoping to expand on the legacy Capecchi has created in genetics. Through maintaining excellence in biomedical research, mentoring future researchers and promoting coordination between clinical and laboratory research, the society believes it can make that possible.

Throughout his lecture, Capecchi used examples from his life to show how he was able to progress personally and in academics by collaborating with others and sharing what he could with them. During his explanations of the scientific processes that built the research that won him a Nobel Prize, Capecchi stopped to mention the countless contributions his friends and colleges had made.

"The Nobel Prize rewards a great segment of my life and work," Capecchi said. "I hope that this work will be used for the betterment of others' lives."

Lorris Betz, executive dean of the School of Medicine, said that during dinner before his lecture, Capecchi had told him it was also his hope to encourage the next generation of scientists.

"The lecture was extremely in-depth and exhilarating because it is exactly what I want to go into," said Blake Wilde, a junior at Utah State University. "It was good to hear his story and how he got into the field of molecular biology. It encouraged me."

When he arrived in America as a young boy, Capecchi said he expected the roads to be paved with gold but found opportunity instead. Yet growing up in Pennsylvania in a Quaker commune, Capecchi said he learned that an individual's strength is dependent on those around him.

"The hope of genetics is to unleash the creative spirit within us," Capecchi said. "Given the opportunity early, handicaps can be overcome and dreams can be achieved."

Lynn Harlam, a nurse at University Hospital, questioned whether Capecchi would ever see, in his lifetime, the impact his work would have on the world.

"Few people do things that benefit others like his research will," Harlam said. "Research isn't the most glamorous profession, but there is humility in it."


E-mail: cnorlen@desnews.com