PHILADELPHIA — Nancy A. Speck, PhD, a widely recognized international leader in the field of blood-cell development, has been named chair of the department of Cell and Developmental Biology in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. She is also the associate director of Penn’s Institute for Regenerative Medicine, co-leader of the Hematologic Malignancies Program at the Abramson Cancer Center, and is an investigator in the Abramson Family Cancer Research Institute.

Over the course of her more than 30-year career, Speck has made many important contributions to better understand developmental hematopoiesis (the formation and development of blood cells) as well as translating these findings to fighting leukemia. (Genes required for blood cell formation and function are often mutated in human leukemia.)

Her contributions to the field include identifying proteins Runx1 and CBFβ, mutations of which are regularly found in leukemia. Speck’s biochemical and molecular characterization of these factors – before and after linking them to leukemia – has enabled rapid progress in understanding their role in normal and malignant blood-cell development.

“Nancy has distinguished herself as a research scientist, teacher, and mentor,” said J. Larry Jameson, MD, PhD, executive vice president for the Health System and dean of the Perelman School of Medicine. “She has made many significant contributions to our understanding of how blood cells develop and how the process goes wrong in certain types of leukemia. Her long record of leadership and discovery in the classroom and the lab will be immensely valuable to cell and developmental biology research at Penn. She has already laid out a bold and collaborative vision for the department, which is widely regarded as one of the best in the country.”

Speck has published more than 100 peer-reviewed articles in leading journals. In addition to her contributions to basic science, she serves as a reviewer for the scholarly journals Blood, Nature, Nature Genetics, Cell Stem Cell, Cancer Cell, Science, PNAS, and other publications. Speck has served on and chaired study sections at the National Institutes of Health, American Society of Hematology, and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, as well as many national and international grant review panels and committees. Her honors include the Leukemia Society of America scholar award and Fogarty International Center senior fellow award. Most recently she received the 2015 Henry M. Stratton Medal for Basic Science from the American Society of Hematology for her “seminal contributions in the area of hematology research.”

Speck earned her PhD in biochemistry from Northwestern University and completed postdoctoral research fellowships in retroviral pathogenesis (viruses whose genes are encoded in RNA instead of DNA) and eukaryotic gene regulation at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research and at MIT. She started her own laboratory at Dartmouth Medical School, progressing from assistant professor of biochemistry to professor. She then held the James J. Carroll Chair of Oncology at the school before joining the Penn faculty in 2008 as professor of cell and developmental biology.

Speck succeeds Jon Epstein, MD, who has assumed the role of executive vice dean and chief scientific officer of Penn Medicine.

Penn Medicine is one of the world’s leading academic medical centers, dedicated to the related missions of medical education, biomedical research, and excellence in patient care. Penn Medicine consists of the Raymond and Ruth Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania (founded in 1765 as the nation’s first medical school) and the University of Pennsylvania Health System, which together form a $8.9 billion enterprise.

The Perelman School of Medicine has been ranked among the top medical schools in the United States for more than 20 years, according to U.S. News & World Report's survey of research-oriented medical schools. The School is consistently among the nation's top recipients of funding from the National Institutes of Health, with $496 million awarded in the 2020 fiscal year.

The University of Pennsylvania Health System’s patient care facilities include: the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and Penn Presbyterian Medical Center—which are recognized as one of the nation’s top “Honor Roll” hospitals by U.S. News & World Report—Chester County Hospital; Lancaster General Health; Penn Medicine Princeton Health; and Pennsylvania Hospital, the nation’s first hospital, founded in 1751. Additional facilities and enterprises include Good Shepherd Penn Partners, Penn Medicine at Home, Lancaster Behavioral Health Hospital, and Princeton House Behavioral Health, among others.

Penn Medicine is powered by a talented and dedicated workforce of more than 44,000 people. The organization also has alliances with top community health systems across both Southeastern Pennsylvania and Southern New Jersey, creating more options for patients no matter where they live.

Penn Medicine is committed to improving lives and health through a variety of community-based programs and activities. In fiscal year 2020, Penn Medicine provided more than $563 million to benefit our community.

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