Nancy Hopkins

Nancy Hopkins

Amgen Professor of Biology Emerita

Before closing her lab, Nancy Hopkins worked on the genetics of mouse RNA tumor viruses; on the genetics of early vertebrate development using zebrafish; and on the fish as a cancer model.





Paul A. Thompson



Assistant Phone


  • PhD, 1971, Harvard University
  • BA, 1964, Biology, Harvard University

Research Summary

Nancy Hopkins became an assistant professor at MIT’s Center for Cancer Research in 1973. She used genetics to map RNA tumor virus genes, identifying genes that determine host range and the type and severity of cancers mouse retroviruses cause. These genes included capsid protein p30 and transcriptional elements now known as enhancers. Hopkins switched research areas more than a decade later, developing tools for zebrafish research and devising an efficient method for large-scale insertional mutagenesis. Using this technique, her lab identified and cloned 25% of the genes essential for a fertilized zebrafish egg to develop into a swimming larva. These genes included known and novel genes that predispose fish to cancer. Currently, Hopkins works on advocacy for cancer prevention and early detection research.


  •  Biomedical Innovation Award, STAT, 2021
  • American Association for Cancer Research Academy, Fellow, 2021
  • Xconomy Lifetime Achievement Award, 2018
  • Harvard Centennial Medal, 2014
  • Margaret L. Kripke Legend Award, MDAnderson, 2012
  • AACR Women in Cancer Research Award, 2006
  • National Academy of Sciences, Member, 2004
  • UCSF Medal, 2003
  • National Academy of Medicine, Member 1999
  • American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Fellow, 1998

Key Publications

  1. A genetic screen in zebrafish identifies cilia genes as a principal cause of cystic kidney. Sun, Z, Amsterdam, A, Pazour, GJ, Cole, DG, Miller, MS, Hopkins, N. 2004. Development 131, 4085-93.
    doi: 10.1242/dev.01240PMID:15269167
  2. Identification of 315 genes essential for early zebrafish development. Amsterdam, A, Nissen, RM, Sun, Z, Swindell, EC, Farrington, S, Hopkins, N. 2004. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 101, 12792-7.
    doi: 10.1073/pnas.0403929101PMID:15256591
  3. Zebrafish vasa homologue RNA is localized to the cleavage planes of 2- and 4-cell-stage embryos and is expressed in the primordial germ cells. Yoon, C, Kawakami, K, Hopkins, N. 1997. Development 124, 3157-65.
    doi: 10.1242/dev.124.16.3157PMID:9272956
  4. Insertional mutagenesis and rapid cloning of essential genes in zebrafish. Gaiano, N, Amsterdam, A, Kawakami, K, Allende, M, Becker, T, Hopkins, N. 1996. Nature 383, 829-32.
    doi: 10.1038/383829a0PMID:8893009
  5. Integration and germ-line transmission of a pseudotyped retroviral vector in zebrafish. Lin, S, Gaiano, N, Culp, P, Burns, JC, Friedmann, T, Yee, JK, Hopkins, N. 1994. Science 265, 666-9.
    doi: 10.1126/science.8036514PMID:8036514

Recent Publications

  1. An Editor scientists dream of. Hopkins, N. 2023. Genes Dev 37, 30-31.
    doi: 10.1101/gad.350500.123PMID:37061990
  2. Molecular mechanisms of the preventable causes of cancer in the United States. Golemis, EA, Scheet, P, Beck, TN, Scolnick, EM, Hunter, DJ, Hawk, E, Hopkins, N. 2018. Genes Dev 32, 868-902.
    doi: 10.1101/gad.314849.118PMID:29945886
  3. Reflecting on fifty years of progress for women in science. Hopkins, N. 2015. DNA Cell Biol 34, 159-61.
    doi: 10.1089/dna.2015.2803PMID:25689304
  4. Highly aneuploid zebrafish malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumors have genetic alterations similar to human cancers. Zhang, G, Hoersch, S, Amsterdam, A, Whittaker, CA, Lees, JA, Hopkins, N. 2010. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 107, 16940-5.
    doi: 10.1073/pnas.1011548107PMID:20837522
  5. Mutagenesis strategies in zebrafish for identifying genes involved in development and disease. Amsterdam, A, Hopkins, N. 2006. Trends Genet 22, 473-8.
    doi: 10.1016/j.tig.2006.06.011PMID:16844256
  6. A zebrafish screen for craniofacial mutants identifies wdr68 as a highly conserved gene required for endothelin-1 expression. Nissen, RM, Amsterdam, A, Hopkins, N. 2006. BMC Dev Biol 6, 28.
    doi: 10.1186/1471-213X-6-28PMID:16759393
  7. A genetic screen in zebrafish identifies the mutants vps18, nf2 and foie gras as models of liver disease. Sadler, KC, Amsterdam, A, Soroka, C, Boyer, J, Hopkins, N. 2005. Development 132, 3561-72.
    doi: 10.1242/dev.01918PMID:16000385
  8. Identification of 315 genes essential for early zebrafish development. Amsterdam, A, Nissen, RM, Sun, Z, Swindell, EC, Farrington, S, Hopkins, N. 2004. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 101, 12792-7.
    doi: 10.1073/pnas.0403929101PMID:15256591
  9. Many ribosomal protein genes are cancer genes in zebrafish. Amsterdam, A, Sadler, KC, Lai, K, Farrington, S, Bronson, RT, Lees, JA, Hopkins, N. 2004. PLoS Biol 2, E139.
    doi: 10.1371/journal.pbio.0020139PMID:15138505
  10. Insertional mutagenesis in zebrafish rapidly identifies genes essential for early vertebrate development. Golling, G, Amsterdam, A, Sun, Z, Antonelli, M, Maldonado, E, Chen, W, Burgess, S, Haldi, M, Artzt, K, Farrington, S et al.. 2002. Nat Genet 31, 135-40.
    doi: 10.1038/ng896PMID:12006978
More Publications


Photo Credit: Leonard Greco