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Founder of the Department of Gene Expression and Regulation at Wistar Institute;
professor of genetics at University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine
Searching for Answers
Frank J. Rauscher III ’79, founder of the Department of Gene Expression and Regulation at Wistar Institute and professor of genetics at University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, grew up in his father’s lab at the National Institutes of Health. That’s where Frank J. Rauscher Jr. ’53 served as the first director of the National Cancer Program.
Even if his father hadn’t been a prominent player in the early days of cancer research, Rauscher would have found his way to Moravian’s biology department. He says a fascination with the natural world is encoded in his DNA. For the last ten years, his lab at Wistar has focused on the BRCA1 familial breast cancer gene. With the completion of the human genome, there are major inroads to be made in targeting the genetic pathways for improved treatments.
“Even after 30 years of the war on cancer, there are still so many unanswered questions, and we’re really just scratching the surface in applying the human genome information to cancer therapeutics,” says Rauscher, who also has studied sarcoma and Wilms’ tumor. “Every day I walk in the lab, I have a new idea for how to attack this problem.”
Admittedly, he was ill prepared for his future when he arrived on campus, having an extraordinary interest in biology but little ability for the quantitative side of the field. Professor Brubaker in the math department took him under his wing to help him hone the skills needed for top-notch research.
“He was a godsend,” recalls Rauscher, who has been featured on CNN and recently stepped down after ten years as editor-in-chief of the journal Cancer Research. “I had to take math and went to him and said, ‘I don’t have the aptitude.’ He said, ‘I don’t care if you don’t know how to add, I’ll get you through this stuff.’ He was the most amazing teacher; no one had ever done that. I credit him with completely saving me. I never would have made it at a larger university that didn’t take that care.”
"My Moravian math professor was the most amazing teacher; I credit him with completely saving me – I never would have made it at a larger university that didn’t take that care."