Frank J. Rauscher, III

Born: December 11, 1957 | Perth Amboy, NJ, US

Frank J. Rauscher, III grew up near Washington, D. C. His father was director of the National Cancer Institute, to which Rauscher attributes his early interest in biology. He attended Moravian College, spending breaks in labs at Columbia University and Yale-New Haven Hospital. Next, Rauscher entered Edwin Cadman's lab as a technician. Interested in molecular biology and oncogene research, he entered graduate school at SUNY Buffalo, where he studied the interaction of drugs and chromatin. During a postdoc in the Tom Curran lab at Roche Institute of Molecular Biology, his research focused on the fosoncogene. Finally, Rauscher set up his lab as an assistant professor at the Wistar Institute. He discusses grant writing, competition, hypothesis driven" science, and the importance of basic cancer research. "

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Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0560
No. of pages: 110
Minutes: 500

Interview Sessions

Andrea R. Maestrejuan
7-9 October 1996
Wistar Institute, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Abstract of Interview

Frank J. Rauscher, III, one of five children, grew up mostly in suburbs of Washington, D. C. His father was a cancer researcher with the National Institutes of Health at first, eventually becoming director of the National Cancer Institute; his mother was a teacher and homemaker. Because of his father's important scientific career, he was often fully aware of politics and science, even shaking President Nixon's hand at the signing of the National Cancer Act. Rauscher attributed his early interest in biology to being immersed in the field because of his father's career. He was a young teen at the time of the Vietnam War and the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. , both of which amplified, to him, the fact that he lived in a city at the center of internationally important decisions. Rauscher attended Moravian College in Pennsylvania. He was familiar with the college because his father had gone there. It was only in his junior year that he decided to major in biology. The removal of a large tumor from his chest helped change his mind about becoming a doctor, and an exceptional teacher's help in mathematics helped make a science career possible. During one mid-year break, Rauscher gained research experience in Sol Spiegelman's lab at Columbia University. During his other school breaks he worked in a chemotherapy clinic at Yale-New Haven Hospital. These two different aspects of treating cancer solidified Rauscher's career choice; he made his final decision to be a scientist, and he devoted his remaining college time to science courses. Feeling that experience would stand him in good stead when he applied to graduate school, Rauscher entered Edwin Cadman's lab as a technician, where he did research on biochemical synergy as a means of killing tumors. While in Cadman's lab, Rauscher decided to go into pharmacology and began to prepare to enter a graduate program. The burgeoning field of molecular biology and oncogene research ensnared his interest, so he entered graduate school at State University of New York at Buffalo. He went into Terry Beerman's lab to study the interaction of drugs and chromatin. Then came the breakthroughs in oncogene research in the 1980s. Rauscher applied for a postdoc position in the Tom Curran lab at Roche Institute of Molecular Biology and switched from pharmacology to molecular biology. Research in the lab focused on the fosoncogene. Collaboration with Bruce Spiegelman and B. Robert Franza Jr. established a DNA-binding site for fos. The discovery that jun and fos form a dimeric complex and the discovery of leucine zippers in fos and jun spurred new work on transcription. Rauscher described the attempt to inhibit oncogenic cell growth, using transdominant mutant dimerizing proteins. Curran provided practical career advice for Rauscher, advice that helped him define a research focus for his own lab. He set up his lab as an assistant professor at the Wistar Institute. At the end of the interview Rauscher discusses the necessity of bringing in grant money and his strategy for designing grant applications; how seeking grants fosters "tactical science"; how he identified the Wilms' tumor gene DNA-binding site; the competitiveness of experimental science; the pressures on a two-career couple; and how he attempts to design a project that is both "hypothesis driven" and capable of producing solid results. He describes how he used technology from his research on WT1 to study zinc finger proteins and how his research on Krüppel-associated box and KRAB-associated protein was funded by the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences award. Rauscher concludes his interview with his explanation of the necessity for a researcher to pursue new ideas and new fields of research and with renewed emphasis on the importance of continuing basic cancer research. 

Education

Year Institution Degree Discipline
1979 Moravian College BS Biology
1987 The State University of New York, Buffalo PhD

Professional Experience

Roche Institute of Molecular Biology

1987 to 1990
Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Molecular Oncology

Wistar Institute of Anatomy and Biology

1990 to 1992
Assistant Professor
1992 to 1997
Associate Professor
1992 to 1997
Program Leader, Molecular Genetics

University of Pennsylvania

1990 to 1997
Member, Molecular Biology Graduate Group

University of Pennsylvania Medical School

1993 to 1997
Adjunct Associate Professor of Genetics

Honors

Year(s) Award
1991 to 1995

Pew Scholar in the Biomedical Sciences

1991

Wilson S. Stone Memorial Award

1995

David M. Kovitz Visiting Professorship Award, University of Calgary, Canada

1995

William L. McGuire M.D. Memorial Fellowship, Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation

1996

Annual Esther Zoller Breast Cancer Lecture, University of California, San Francisco

Table of Contents

Early Years
1

Family background. Father's scientific career. The signing of the National Cancer Act. Early interest in biology. Impact of the Vietnam War and assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.

College Years and Time as a Technician
13

Religion. Moravian College. Liberal arts college. Decides against becoming a Doctor. Research experience in Sol Spiegelman's lab at Columbia University. Works in a chemotherapy clinic at Yale-New Haven Hospital. Social life at College. Enters Edwin C. Cadman lab as a technician. Research on biochemical synergy as a means of killing tumors. The need for biomedical researchers to maintain ties with clinicians. The development of tests that predict tumor responses to chemotherapy. Decides to pursue graduate work in pharmacology. Interest in burgeoning field of molecular biology and oncogene research.

Graduate School and Postdoctoral Years
50

The Terry A. Beerman lab and research on the interaction of drugs and chromatin. Cell resistance to drug therapy. The breakthroughs in oncogene research in the 1980s. Begins graduate work at State University of New York at Buffalo. Applies for a postdoc position in the Tom Curran lab. Switches from pharmacology to molecular biology. Administrative structure at the Roche Institute of Molecular Biology. The fos oncogene. Collaboration with Bruce M. Spiegelman and B. Robert Franza, Jr. establishes a DNA-binding site for fos. Discovers that jun and fos form a dimeric complex. Discovery of leucine zippers in fos and jun spurs new work on transcription. Attempt to inhibit oncogenic cell growth, using transdominant mutant dimerizing proteins.

Faculty Years
74

Accepts a position as an assistant professor at the Wistar Institute. Grants. Identifies the Wilms's tumor gene DNA-binding site. Designing grant Applications. The pressures on a two-career couple.

Final Thoughts
84

Attempting to design a project that is both hypothesis driven" and capable of producing solid results. Study of zinc finger proteins. Research on Krüppel-associated box and KRAB-associated protein funded by the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences. Focus on BRCA1. Basic cancer research.

Index
106

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About the Interviewer

Andrea R. Maestrejuan