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Top Stories of 2007, #9: Utahn wins Nobel Prize

Top Stories of 2007, #9: Utahn wins Nobel Prize



Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes

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**(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)**Ed Yeates reporting

In the early morning of October 8, 2007, Dr. Mario Capecchi was awakened by a phone call at his home in Salt Lake. It was Stockholm announcing he was a recipient of the Nobel Prize in Medicine. The story is our number nine choice of the Top 10 Stories for 2007.

That call from Stockholm reinforced what colleagues already knew: Mario Capecchi's work developing a genetic mechanism in mice that allows researchers to study mutations that cause disease was more than worthy of the big prize.

Diabetes, cystic fibrosis, heart and neuro-psychiatric diseases are just a few of the diseases his work focuses on, not to mention a big villain: cancer.

Dr.Capecchi said, "We can create that mutation in a mouse and thereby create that exact cancer in a mouse, then study its pathology in great detail; and then we can also use it as a vehicle for therapies."

He received a standing ovation from fellow colleagues at the University of Utah, then more applause in Stockholm from a worldwide audience as the King of Sweden presented 10 Nobels.

It was a long journey to Stockholm, not just from his home here and the University of Utah, but from native Italy years many ago where his mother, a writer, took up the pen against the Nazi's. When the Gestapo took her away, Mario was abandoned for a while, as a small child, until his mother later retraced his steps and brought him to the United States.

What he learned from those years is ingrained in his philosophy. "What you have to do is provide the same opportunity to every child and then allow them to realize their dreams," Dr. Capecchi said.

He builds on those dreams even now, not only for himself, but for others. He's kind, generous and unassuming, but tenacious and brilliant in research. That all rubs off on those who rub shoulders with him.

Dr. Capecchi shared the Nobel in Medicine with two other colleagues, one in this country and one abroad.

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