Skip to main content

2008 Gruber Genetics Prize

Director of the Carnegie Institution's Department of Embryology,
Allan C. Spradling's work on fly genomics has shed light on the earliest stages of reproduction. He teamed up to carry out the first successful gene therapy in a many-celled organism, and identified the first stem cell "niches" which may play a crucial role in fulfilling the therapeutic promise of these cells.

Dr. Spradling will receive the 2008 Gruber Genetics Prize on Sunday, July 13, at the International Congress of Genetics meeting in Berlin, Germany.

2008 Genetics Prize Recipient

Laureate Profile

Allan C. Spradling directs the Carnegie Institution’s Department of Embryology in Baltimore and is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) investigator.

Born and raised in Kalamazoo, Michigan, he studied mathematics and physics at the University of Chicago before switching to biology in the hopes that it was not “too late.” He first became interested in the Drosophila genome at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he earned his PhD in 1975 for using polytene chromosomes as a genome array to co-discover the heat shock response. A long infatuation with the Drosophila ovary began during a postdoctoral stint at Indiana University, where he discovered the first protein-coding genes to undergo amplification during development.

In 1980 Spradling accepted a faculty position at the Carnegie Institution in Baltimore, and two years later he and colleague Gerry Rubin, who currently directs HHMI’s Janelia Farm Research Campus, developed a general method to introduce DNA into the Drosophila genome. He teamed up with Rubin again in1991 to found the Berkeley Drosophila Genome Project. Spradling’s role was to scale up a method he had developed earlier that uses special genetic strains to provide “instant” experimental access to individual Drosophila genes. The widely used project continues to this day and now encompasses more than 2/3 of fly genes.

Spradling was appointed an HHMI investigator in 1988 and Carnegie director in 1994. He has pursued research in a wide range of areas but is perhaps best known for identifying and analyzing stem cells in their normal context within tissues. In 1990 Spradling’s group described the first stem cell niche, again using the Drosophila ovary.

Allan Spradling has been awarded many prizes and accolades for his work, including jointly winning with Rubin the Newcomb Cleveland Prize and the Molecular Biology Award of the National Academy of Sciences. He also received the E.G. Conklin Award of the Society for Developmental Biology and the G.W. Beadle Award of the Genetics Society of America. Spradling was recently awarded an honorary Ph.D. from the University of Chicago.

His current studies focus on epithelial stem cells and also on egg development. He has recently found evidence that steroid hormones and prostaglandins regulate Drosophila oogenesis, of the process of creating an ovum or egg cell, providing new opportunities to study critically important mechanisms acting in the human ovary. He believes that “one can help address virtually any problem in human biology and medicine using Drosophila and the other powerful genetic model organisms”



The Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation proudly presents the 2008 Genetics Prize to Allan C. Spradling, Ph.D. a leader in developmental genetics and stem cell biology.

Allan C. Spradling played a pivotal role in creating a method to systematically delete from or add genes to the genome of the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster. He thus helped create the foundation for functional genomic studies of Drosophila.

By studying the development and differentiation of Drosophila eggs, he made fundamental discoveries about the earliest stages of reproduction. He extended these insights from the fly to the mouse. Germ cells are the ultimate stem cells, and Spradling's discoveries of their intracellular reorganization and specific cellular microenvironment (the stem cell "niche") within the ovary have had enormous impact on the field of stem cell biology.

Photo Gallery