Chemistry alumnus receives UIAA Alumni Achievement Award

Stephen Elledge

Stephen J. Elledge, a world-renowned leader in the field of the genetics, biochemistry, genomics, and proteomics of cancer cell biology, has received a 2017 University of Illinois Alumni Achievement Award.

Established in 1957, the award is presented to alumni who have attained outstanding success and national or international distinction in their chosen profession or life’s work. Elledge (BS, ’78, chemistry) also received the LAS Alumni Achievement Award in 2013.

After receiving his bachelor’s degree from Illinois, Elledge went on to earn his doctoral degree in biology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1983. He then went on to Stanford University to complete his postdoctoral research.

At Stanford, Elledge gathered research and discovered a group of genes known as RNRs. Through RNRs, he realized the genes can sense damaged DNA and trigger its repair—a process vital to the prevention of cancer and other diseases.

Elledge has excelled in other avenues of his work as well. He is the Gregor Mendel Professor of Genetics and Medicine in the Department of Genetics at Harvard Medical School and in the Division of Genetics at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. He also serves as a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator.

His research focuses on applying genetics and genetic technologies to solve problems relevant to human disease. His research has produced fundamental contributions to the current understanding of cellular mechanisms of cancer and development of novel therapeutic strategies. More recently, he and his team have developed immunological tools such as VirScan, which uses a single drop of blood to determine current and past viral infections.

A member of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Medicine, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Elledge has earned numerous prestigious awards for his work, including the 2010 Dickson Prize, the 2013 Lewis S. Rosenstiel Award for Distinguished Work in the Basic Medical Sciences, the 2013 Gairdner Foundation International Award, the 2015 Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award, and the 2017 Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences.

In a 2013 LAS profile of Elledge, he said that his passion for cell biology dates back to childhood.

“When I first learned about atoms and molecules in grade school, I saw that the more you pulled back, the more that was there,” he said. “I was fascinated by the intricacies of matter.”


University of Illinois Alumni Association, and Samantha Jones Toal
May 16, 2017