Joan S. Brugge, Ph.D. is 2019 Keynote Speaker


Joan S. Brugge, Ph.D, is the Louise Foote Pfeiffer Professor of Cell Biology and the Director of the Ludwig Center at Harvard Medical School. She is widely recognized for her explorations into the Rous sarcoma virus, extracellular matrix adhesion, and epithelial tumor progression in breast cancer.

Currently, Dr. Brugge is Director of the Harvard Ludwig Cancer Center and Professor of Cell Biology at Harvard Medical School. She received her B.S. degree from Northwestern University and Ph.D. from the Baylor College of Medicine. Her postdoctoral training was at the University of Colorado with Dr. Raymond Erikson.

Prior to joining Harvard, Dr. Brugge held a professorship at the State University of New York, Stony Brook and she was an HHMI investigator and professor at the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Brugge has also served as scientific director of the biotechnology company, ARIAD.

Dr. Brugge was originally focused on pursuing a career in mathematics as an instructor. However, during her undergraduate studies at Northwestern University, her sister was diagnosed with a brain tumor. This event opened her up to the field of biology and cancer research and it was there that she became interested in tumor virology – the study of how viruses can affect and in some cases produce cancerous cells.

She went on to receive a doctorate degree in virology from the Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX and, from there, Dr. Brugge joined Dr. Ray Erikson at the University of Colorado for her postdoctorate work, which resulted in the discovery of a protein formed from both the viral and cellular forms of the Src gene. This was a major breakthrough in cancer research, proving her thesis that genes which cause cells to become cancerous originate from normal cellular genes. Much of Dr. Brugge’s research has been centered on finding the role of pp60src, which is the protein coded for by RSV. 

In 1977, Dr. Brugge joined the Department of Cell Biology at Harvard Medical School as a Professor, serving as Department Chair from 2003 to 2014. Her lab focused on elucidating the cellular processes and signaling pathways that are involved in the initiation and progression of epithelial tumors, primarily of the breast and ovary.

Throughout her career, Dr. Brugge has received numerous awards and recognition for her research, including the American Society of Cell Biologists (ASCB) 2001 annual Women in Cell Biology award, the American Cancer Society Research Professorship, the NIH Merit Award, and ASCB’s Senior Career Recognition Award. She also has the distinction of being elected to memberships in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, National Academy of Sciences, and the Institute of Medicine. She was lso named an Investigator for the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, which is an assembly of medical scientists and researchers that advances biomedical research for the benefit of the general public. Her work has been funded by the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.