Navigation Menu is only visible when JavaScript is enabled



Press Releases

Webcasts and Multimedia

News Clip Archives

ASHG Fact Sheet

ASHG Annual Meeting

Logo Guidelines

Reporting Science & Genetics

Communicating Science



Mary-Claire King, PhD: ASHG President (2012)


We are extraordinarily fortunate to be living in this era of exciting discoveries and rapid scientific advancements in human genetics. There has not been a more exciting time to be involved in the genetics field since Gregor Mendel counted smooth and wrinkled peas and Charles Darwin tended finches.

- Mary-Claire King, PhD


American Cancer Society Research Professor of Genome Sciences and Medical Genetics, University of Washington, Seattle
Member, National Academy of Sciences (NAS)
Member, Institute of Medicine (IOM)
Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)
Member, American Academy of Arts and Sciences
Member, American Philosophical Society



Primary Research Interests:

Dr. King is known worldwide for her major accomplishments in human genetics research. Some of her most noteworthy achievements include: identifying the BRCA1 gene responsible for inherited susceptibility to breast cancer; demonstrating that the genomes of humans and chimpanzees are 99% genetically identical; and pioneering the application of genomic sequencing methods in forensics to identify victims of human rights abuse.


Dr. King's research team uses experimental and bioinformatics genomics tools to study common, complex human diseases and health conditions. Dr. King’s primary research areas of interest are inherited breast and ovarian cancer, inherited deafness, and the genetics of schizophrenia. King’s group applies the study of human genetics and genomics to identify and characterize critical genes in affected families and populations. Because these conditions are not purely genetic, they also study the interaction between genetic and environmental influences on human traits and disease outcomes. King’s team also applies genomic sequencing to the identification of victims of human rights abuses.


Dr. King serves as an expert available for media interviews on the following topic areas:


  • Medical Genetics
  • Genetic Variation & Common Diseases (Breast Cancer, Ovarian Cancer, Inherited Deafness, Schizophrenia, etc.)
  • Population Genetics
  • Evolution/Evolutionary Genetics
  • Direct-to-Consumer & Clinical Genetic Testing
  • Gene Patenting & Licensing
  • Genetic Ancestry & Ancestry Testing
  • DNA Testing
  • DNA Forensics




Mary-Claire King, PhD, is American Cancer Society Research Professor of Genetics and Medicine (Medical Genetics) at the University of Washington in Seattle. Dr. King was elected to serve as 2012 President of the American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG), after having completed a two-year term as a member of the ASHG Board of Directors from 2006 to 2008. She has also served on the Editorial Board of ASHG’s scientific journal, The American Journal of Human Genetics (AJHG).


In 1990, Mary-Claire King demonstrated that a single gene on chromosome 17q21 (which she named BRCA1) was responsible for breast and ovarian cancer in many families. Her discovery of BRCA1 revolutionized the study of numerous other common inherited diseases. The approach that King developed to identify BRCA1 has since proven valuable in the study of many other genetic diseases and conditions.


Dr. King’s current research employs the use of experimental and bioinformatics genomics tools to study complex genetic diseases in humans. Her research focuses on identifying and characterizing critical genes – and their interaction with environmental influences – that play a role in the development of conditions such as breast and ovarian cancer, schizophrenia, and hearing loss.


She has served on the National Commission on Breast Cancer of the President's Cancer Panel, the advisory board of the NIH Office of Research on Women's Health, the Council of the NIH Fogarty Center, the advisory board of the National Action Plan for Breast Cancer, the NIH Breast Cancer Program Review Group, the Board of Scientific Counselors of NCI, the Board of Scientific Counselors of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, the National Research Council committee to advise the Department of Defense on their Breast Cancer Research Program, and many NIH study sections. Abroad, she has served as Consultant to the Commission on the Disappearance of Persons of the Republic of Argentina and has carried out DNA identifications for the United Nations War Crimes Tribunal. Her lab continues to provide genetic identification services and currently serves as the DNA identification base for the United Nations War Crimes Tribunals.


Dr. King has won many awards and honors for her seminal contributions to genetics research, as well as her humanitarian efforts. She was elected to the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), the Institute of Medicine (IOM), the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and as a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). King was also named as honorary chair for the state of Washington at the 50th Anniversary of the United Nations. In 2004, King was honored as the recipient of the Gruber Genetics Prize from the Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation, and she has received many other awards throughout her career, including the Clowes Award for Basic Research from the American Association for Cancer Research, the Jill Rose Award from the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, and the Brinker Award from the Susan G. Komen Foundation.


Dr. King holds a B.A. in Mathematics from Carleton College in Minnesota and a Ph.D. in Genetics from the University of California at Berkeley and carried out postdoctoral training at the University of California, San Francisco. Prior to joining the Department of Medicine (Medical Genetics) and the Department of Genome Sciences at the University of Washington, Seattle, in 1995, King served as a Professor of Genetics in the Departments of Molecular and Cell Biology and of Epidemiology at the University of California at Berkeley from 1976 to 1995.



Dr. King on the Web



Press Releases


Mary-Claire King, PhD, Elected to Serve as President of ASHG in 2012
ASHG Press Release- Oct 8, 2010



Featured News Clips

[Click Featured News Clips to view]


Women Atop Their Fields Dissect the Scientific Life

New York Times - June 15, 2011


How DNA May Have Confirmed Bin Laden's Death

Nature - May 2, 2011


Where Did I Come From? Some Stolen Children Don't Want To Know

National Public Radio (NPR) - Mar 9, 2011


Mary-Claire King, PhD, Elected to Serve as President of ASHG in 2012
ASHG Press Release- Oct 8, 2010


The Case for and Against the Patenting of Genes

Philadelphia Inquirer - Jun 21, 2010


U.S. Judge Strikes Down Patent on Cancer Genes

Associated Press (AP) - Mar 30, 2010


Breast Cancer Gene Patents Judged Invalid

Nature - Mar 30, 2010


Firm Says Test Judges Risk for Common Breast Cancers

Washington Post- Oct 8, 2008


More Parents Ponder Cancer Gene Tests for Kids

Associated Press (AP) - Sep 20, 2008




The American Society of Human Genetics, Incorporated

9650 Rockville Pike Bethesda, Maryland 20814 1-866-HUM-GENE (301) 634-7300

Privacy Policy