Siddhartha Mukherjee

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Siddhartha Mukherjee
Dr. Siddhartha Mukherjee 2011.jpg
Mukherjee in April 2011
Native name সিদ্ধার্থ মুখার্জী
Born 1970 (age 46–47)
New Delhi, India
Nationality American, Indian
Institutions Columbia University
Alma mater
Thesis The processing and presentation of viral antigens (1997)
Known for
Notable awards Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction (2011)
Guardian First Book Award (2011)

Siddhartha Mukherjee (Bengali: সিদ্ধার্থ মুখার্জী; born 1970) is an Indian American physician, biological scientist, and author best known for his 2010 book, The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer, which was awarded the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction.[1] The book was the basis of a 2015 film documentary, Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies, by Ken Burns for PBS Television.[2] It was named one of the 100 most influential books written in English since 1923 by Time[3] magazine, and one of the 100 notable books of 2010 by The New York Times Magazine.[4] In 2016, Mukherjee released The Gene: An Intimate History[5] which chronicles the history of the gene and a response to the defining question of the future: What becomes of being human when we learn to “read” and “write” our own genetic information?[6]

Currently, he is an assistant professor of medicine at Columbia University and staff physician at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City. He has been the Plummer Visiting Professor at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, the Joseph Garland lecturer at the Massachusetts Medical Society, and an honorary visiting professor at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

A haematologist and oncologist, Mukherjee is also known for his work on the formation of blood and the interactions between the micro-environment ("niche") and cancer cells. In 2014, the Government of India conferred its fourth highest civilian award, the Padma Shri, upon Mukherjee.[7]

Early life and education[edit]

Siddhartha Mukherjee was born to a Bengali family in New Delhi, India. His father, Sibeswar Mukherjee, was an executive with Mitsubishi, and his mother Chandana Mukherjee, was a former schoolteacher from Kolkata. He attended St. Columba's School in Delhi, where he won the school's highest award, the 'Sword of Honour', in 1989. As a biology major at Stanford University, he worked in Nobel Laureate Paul Berg's laboratory, defining cellular genes that change the behaviours of cancer cells.

Mukherjee won a Rhodes Scholarship to study at the University of Oxford, where he earned a Doctor of Philosophy[8] degree in 1997 for research on viral antigens as a postgraduate student of Magdalen College, Oxford. After graduation, he attended Harvard Medical School, where he earned his Doctor of Medicine (MD) degree in 2000.[9] His postgraduate work consisted of a residency in internal medicine followed by an oncology fellowship at Massachusetts General Hospital.[10]


Mukherjee is currently[when?] serving as assistant professor of medicine at the Department of Medicine (Oncology) of Columbia University in New York City.[11] He is also a staff cancer physician at Columbia University Medical Center.[12]

In 2010, Simon & Schuster published his book, The Emperor of All Maladies[13] detailing the evolution of diagnosis and treatment of human cancers from ancient Egypt to the latest developments in chemotherapy and targeted therapy.[14] The Oprah magazine listed it in its "Top 10 Books of 2010."[15] It was also listed in "The 10 Best Books of 2010" by The New York Times[16] and the "Top 10 Non-fiction Books of 2010" by Time.[17]

In 2011, The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer was nominated as a National Book Critics Circle Award finalist. On 18 April 2011, it won the annual Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction; the citation called it "an elegant inquiry, at once clinical and personal, into the long history of an insidious disease that, despite treatment breakthroughs, still bedevils medical science."[1] Mukherjee also received the PEN-E. O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award in 2011. The magazine Time also nominated Mukherjee to its "100 most influential people" list[18] and named his book one of the 100 best non-fiction books since 1923.[3]

A haematologist and oncologist by training, Mukherjee's scientific work addresses the links between normal stem cells and cancer cells. Mukherjee's lab has performed investigations on the microenvironment ("niche") of stem cells, focusing particularly on blood-forming stem cells. Blood-forming stem cells (called haematopoietic stem cells ) reside in the bone marrow in very specific microenvironments. Osteoblasts, or bone-forming cells, comprise an important element of this niche, and they regulate the physiology of haematopoietic stem cells, by providing them with signals to divide, remain quiescent, or maintain their stem cell properties. Mukherjee's scientific work has been recognised through many grants from the National Institutes of Health and from private foundations, including the prestigious "Challenge Grant" awarded by the National Institutes of Health to pioneering researchers in 2009.

In work performed with collaborators in the 1990s and 2000s, Mukherjee's lab identified genes and chemicals that can alter the microenvironment, or niche, and thereby alter the behaviour of normal stem cells, as well as cancer cells. Two such chemicals studied in the lab – proteasome inhibitors and activin inhibitors — are currently in clinical trials with novel therapeutic uses as defined by these studies. The lab has also identified novel genetic mutations in myelodysplasia and acute myelogenous leukaemia and has played a leading role in finding therapies for these diseases in the clinical setting. Mukherjee's lab is based at Columbia University's Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center. Previously, he was affiliated with the Harvard Stem Cell Institute and with Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

Mukherjee's 2016 book The Gene provides a history of genetic research, but also delves into the personal genetic history of the author's family, including mental illness. The book discusses the power of genetics in determining people's health and attributes, but it also has a cautionary tone to not let genetic predispositions define fate, a mentality that led to the rise of eugenics in history and something he thinks lacks the nuance required to understand something as complex as human beings. The Gene was shortlisted for the Royal Society Insight Investment Science Book Prize 2016, "the Nobel prize of science writing".[19]

Mukherjee has published widely in peer reviewed scientific journals, including papers in Nature, Neuron, the Journal of Clinical Investigation, The New England Journal of Medicine and others.[citation needed]


Awards and honours[edit]

Mukherjee was won several awards including:

Personal life[edit]

"Blueprint for a Landscape" by Sarah Sze at the 96th Street subway station

Mukherjee lives in New York and is married to artist Sarah Sze, winner of a MacArthur "Genius" grant and representative of the United States to the 2013 Venice Biennale. They have two daughters, Leela and Aria.[25][26]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "The 2011 Pulitzer Prize Winners: General Non-Fiction". The Pulitzer Prizes. Retrieved 12 November 2013. With lengthy publisher description of the book and short biographical blurb.
  2. ^ Genzlinger, Neil (27 March 2015). "Review: In 'Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies,' Battling an Opportunistic Killer". New York Times. Retrieved 31 March 2015. 
  3. ^ a b c "All-TIME 100 Nonfiction Books". Time. 17 August 2011. Retrieved 28 September 2014. 
  4. ^ a b New York Times Sunday Book Review Editorial Staff (24 November 2010). "100 Notable Books of 2010". New York Times Magazine. Retrieved 28 September 2014. 
  5. ^ "the-gene". the-gene. Retrieved 2016-05-16. 
  6. ^ "The Gene". 2016-05-17. Retrieved 2016-05-16. 
  7. ^ a b "Indo-American Siddhartha Mukherjee calls Padma Shri a great Honor". IANS. Biharprabha News. Retrieved 27 January 2014. 
  8. ^ Mukherjee, Siddhartha (1997). The processing and presentation of viral antigens (DPhil thesis). University of Oxford. OCLC 43182774. 
  9. ^ "Medical Alumnus Wins Pulitzer Prize for Nonfiction". Harvard Magazine. 2011-04-18. Retrieved 2017-01-07. 
  10. ^ Levin, Ann. "Cancer's Biographer". The Record (Columbia University). Retrieved 6 September 2011. 
  11. ^ McGrath, Charles (8 November 2010). "How Cancer Acquired Its Own Biographer". The New York Times. Retrieved 6 September 2011. 
  12. ^ Okie, Susan (28 November 2010). "Review: "The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer," by Siddhartha Mukherjee". Denver Post. Retrieved 6 September 2011. 
  13. ^ Mukherjee, Siddhartha (16 November 2010). The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 978-1-4391-0795-9. Retrieved 6 September 2011. 
  14. ^ Roy, Amit (10 November 2009). "Chronicler of cancer, emperor of maladies". The Telegraph – Calcutta (Kolkata). Retrieved 6 September 2011. 
  15. ^ Sehgal, Parul. "The Emperor of All Maladies (Book Review)". Retrieved 6 September 2011. 
  16. ^ "The 10 Best Books of 2010". The New York Times. 1 December 2010. Retrieved 6 September 2011. 
  17. ^ "The Top 10 Everything of 2010". Time. 9 December 2010. Retrieved 6 September 2011. 
  18. ^ "The 2011 TIME 100 Poll Results". Time. n.d. Retrieved 28 September 2014. 
  19. ^ Flood, Alison (2016-08-04). "Bill Bryson hails 'thrilling' Royal Society science book prize shortlist". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2016-09-22. 
  20. ^ Siddhartha Mukherjee, The Laws of Medicine: Field Notes from an Uncertain Science, Simon & Schuster, 2015 (page visited on 10 December 2015).
  21. ^ James Gleick, "The Gene, by Siddhartha Mukherjee, New York Times May 15, 2016 review
  22. ^ Los Angeles Times Book Review Editorial Staff (2011). "2010 Los Angeles Times Book Prizes Winners & Finalists". Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. Retrieved 28 September 2014. 
  23. ^ Joanna Bourke (10 October 2011). "2011 Wellcome Trust Book Prize shortlist". The Lancet. Retrieved 30 September 2012. 
  24. ^ "Padma Awards Announced". Press Information Bureau, Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India. 25 January 2014. Archived from the original on 8 February 2014. Retrieved 26 January 2014. 
  25. ^ "An Oncologist Writes 'A Biography of Cancer'". NPR. 17 November 2010. Retrieved 6 September 2011. 
  26. ^ Shapin, Steven (8 November 2010). "Cancer World: The Making of a Modern Disease". The New Yorker. Retrieved 6 September 2011. 

External links[edit]