Education & Training

The Life and Legacy of Gertrude Elion
A mini-symposium on her life and scientific contributions

Join us for a mini-symposium reflecting on Gertrude Elion’s life and many scientific contributions throughout her long career.

Gertrude “Trudy” Elion was a pioneer in rational drug design who revolutionized drug development. She developed multiple essential medicines to treat various life-threatening diseases from leukemia to infectious disease. Elion’s first significant discovery, in 1950, was a purine compound, 6-mercaptopurine, then used for treating childhood leukemia; the first clinical trials were held in collaboration with the Sloan Kettering Institute.

Myriad other drugs were approved based on her work, including azathioprine for organ transplants, pyrimethamine for malaria and toxoplasmosis, and acyclovir for herpes viruses. Acyclovir’s success provided the first proof of concept for an antiviral drug and laid the groundwork for developing azidothymidine, the first approved HIV/AIDS drug.

In honor of her numerous discoveries and her rational approach to designing drugs, Elion was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1988 (together with co-workers George Hitchings and James Black). Among many other awards, she also received the National Medal of Science in 1991 and became the first female inductee of the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

This event begins with a fireside-style chat reflecting on the life of Elion, including recollections by her nephew. A symposium will follow, featuring five scientists whose work showcases how the scientific legacy of Gertrude Elion lives on.

This mini-symposium is supported by the Marie-Josée Kravis Women in Science Endeavor (WiSE). Co-sponsors include the Gerstner Sloan Kettering Women in Science and the Tri-Institutional Therapeutics Discovery Institute.

Date: November 15, 2022

Time: to , with reception to follow

Location: Rockefeller Research Laboratories (RRL) Auditorium, 430 East 67th Street

Free and open to all.


Reflection of the life of Gertrude Elion

  • Welcome and introduction by Ushma Neill, PhD
  • Fireside chat with:
    • Jonathan Elion, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine, Brown University
    • Marty St. Clair, PhD, Clinical Development Director, ViiV Healthcare

Gertrude Elion’s Scientific Legacy

  • 3 p.m.: “The story of PolQ: from telomeres to the clinic and back,” Agnel Sfeir, PhDSloan Kettering Institute; Repare Therapeutics
  • 3:30 p.m.: “Genome-scale quantification of target vulnerability in Mycobacterium tuberculosis,” Barbara Bosch, PhD candidateLaboratory of Jeremy Rock, Rockefeller University
  • 3:45 p.m.: “Computational Drug Design: A Rewarding Career of Hunting for Transformative Medicines,” Georgia McGaughey, PhD, Vice President, Data and Computational Sciences, Vertex Pharmaceuticals
  • 4:15 p.m.: “Tumor-selective WNT Suppression in Colorectal Cancer,” Jill Zimmerman, PhD candidate, Laboratory of Luke Dow, Weill Cornell Graduate School
  • 4:30 p.m.: ”Inspirations in science and nature that advance drug discovery,” Mandë Holford, PhD, Associate Professor in Chemistry, CUNY Hunter College and the CUNY Graduate Center


A reception will follow the talks at

Don't be afraid of hard work. Nothing worthwhile comes easily. Don't let others discourage you or tell you that you can't do it. In my time, they told me that women did not enter chemistry. I didn't see any reason why we couldn't.
Gertrude Elion