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Nov. 12, 2007 – Geneticist Mario R. Capecchi, the University of Utah’s first Nobel Prize laureate, will be the featured speaker during 2008 commencement ceremonies, university President Michael K. Young announced today.

“I am thrilled that Mario Capecchi will speak during our commencement ceremonies next spring,” Young said. “Our university is honored to have this wonderful person, great scientist and Nobel laureate on our faculty. We look forward to his address to the university community. His achievements will serve as a wonderful example for our graduating students, and I am certain this will be an extraordinarily memorable event.” Young made the announcement today during a meeting of the university’s Board of Trustees.

The University of Utah’s commencement is scheduled for 9 a.m. Friday, May 2, 2008, at the Jon M. Huntsman Center. Capecchi has not yet announced the topic of his address.

Capecchi is a distinguished professor of human genetics and biology, and co-chairman of the Department of Human Genetics at the University of Utah’s Eccles Institute of Human Genetics. He also is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator.

On Oct. 8, the Nobel Foundation awarded the 2007 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine jointly to Capecchi, Sir Martin J. Evans of Cardiff University in the United Kingdom, and Oliver Smithies of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

They won the prize for their work developing what is known as “gene targeting” or “knockout mouse technology” – a method that allows researchers to disable any gene in a mouse to determine what goes wrong and thus learn the gene’s normal function.

The method, used worldwide, has revolutionized mammalian biology and allowed the breeding of mice that can serve as models for hundreds of human diseases, including various cancers. Such mice allow scientists to learn more about the role of genes in how embryos develop, in the physiology and aging of adults, and in how diseases occur – and to test possible new disease treatments.