Brigid Hogan Awarded Developmental
Biology-SDB Lifetime Achievement Award
By Marsha E. Lucas
Hogan (left) receiving Lifetime
Achievement Award from SDB President
(2014-2015), Lee Niswander at 74th SDB
Annual Meeting in Snowbird, Utah.
Developmental Biology-Society for
Developmental Biology Lifetime Achievement Award
was presented to
Brigid Hogan of Duke University School of
Medicine for her outstanding and sustained research
and mentoring contributions to the field of
developmental biology. Hogan pioneered the molecular
analysis of early mammalian development. She
developed tools where there were none—that is
constructed cDNA libraries from early mouse embryos
and developed molecular probes that enabled her
group to isolate some of the first mammalian Hox
genes. Hogan’s extensive research on bone
morphogenetic proteins (BMPs) established its many
roles in mouse development including the gut, brain,
sperm and her current major focus—lung
morphogenesis. Her work on how a lung forms and
repairs itself after injury has clinical
implications on the origins of lung fibrosis and
certain forms of inherited lung disease.
As a high school student, Hogan expressed an
interest science, but found the classes “rather
boring.” That changed when her all-girl high
school—unable to find a female science
teacher—recruited a young man just out of school—Mr.
“Suddenly now there was this fresh person just out
of University teaching in a high school which is
quite unusual really,” Hogan said in an interview
last Spring.Jones told them, ‘The most important
thing is DNA.’ He immediately set aside the old
curriculum and had them doing squash preps of dog
“It was incredibly invigorating,” Hogan said.
Hogan carried this excitement with her to the
University of Cambridge where she earned a
Bachelor’s in Natural Sciences in 1964 and a PhD in
Biochemistry in 1968. The journey was not easy
though as she encountered a significant amount of
prejudice as a woman in science.
“I have to say, I’m amazed that I survived,” she
said. “Women were put down in a really extraordinary
way. ...You had to have this passion to keep going.”
In 1968, Hogan left Cambridge for the Massachusetts
Institute of Technology to do a postdoc with Paul
Gross where she studied protein synthesis in sea
urchin embryos. While happy to be doing
developmental biology, she felt limited by the
model. At the time, you couldn’t do genetics in sea
urchins, thus she was unable to address detailed
questions about mechanism.
In 1970, Hogan returned to the UK and became an
independent investigator at the University of
Sussex. Over the next few years she worked primarily
in cell culture. But, when she moved to the Imperial
Cancer Research Fund at Mill Hill in 1974, she
shifted to the mouse system, doing substantial work
on teratocarcinoma cells and early mouse
“Once I began to work on mouse embryos,
Anne McLaren was a major, major mentor in my
life,” Hogan said, both scientifically and
personally. “[I] have been really lucky in working
in mammalian development where there has been such a
strong cohort of women. It’s quite remarkable if you
think about it.” She acknowledged the tremendous
support she received from the likes of
Gail Martin, and
Alex Joyner as they generously shared
techniques, cell lines, and knowledge.
In the early 1980s, Hogan was instrumental in
Cold Spring Harbor Mouse Course into existence.
She wanted to create a space for scientists to learn
new techniques and disseminate standard protocols.
The consensus from her colleagues though was it
would be a logistical nightmare trying to get mice
to mate and generate enough embryos for the course,
not to mention the equipment and financial support
required to run it.
Hogan took advantage of a chance encounter at a Cold
Spring Harbor Laboratory meeting with the
James Watson. She made her case for a mouse
course, which provided the perfect nudge as Watson
had been trying to get mouse developmental
Frank Costantini and
Elizabeth Lacy to Cold Spring Harbor. In 1983,
Hogan, Costantini, and Lacy ran the first Cold
Spring Harbor Mouse Course (held
annually now for the past 34 years). In 1986,
they along with
Rosa Beddington published the first edition of
Manipulating the Mouse Embryo: A Laboratory Manual.
Hogan moved her lab to the National Institute for
Medical Research in 1985 where her graduate student,
Peter Holland, was among the first to clone
mouse homeobox genes and use in situ hybridization
to observe their expression pattern in mouse
Her work on the role of BMPs in mouse development
took off after her move to Vanderbilt University in
1988. This led her down a path to study the
development of many different organ systems
including the kidney, lung, and heart.
“I hope it’s not a Jack of all trades and master
of none,” she said. The reality though is the
underlying mechanisms of how different cell types
interact and undergo changes to form a functioning
organ are often conserved. “What you learn in one
system can be applied to the other,” she said.
In 2002, Hogan was recruited to Duke University
Medical Center to become Chair of the Department of
Cell Biology. To date she has published some 250
scientific articles and reviews.
When reflecting on her role as a mentor Hogan
stressed the importance of teaching people how to
communicate their science—that is present a poster,
write a manuscript and give a talk.
“It doesn’t matter how brilliant you are with your
hands or [the] ideas you have,” she said.
“If you can’t persuade someone to fund you to do it,
you’re not going to be successful.”
Hogan served as president of both the Society for
Developmental Biology (2000-2001) and the American
Society for Cell Biology (2008-2009). She is a
member of the National Academy of Sciences and a
Fellow of the Royal Society and the American Academy
of Arts and Sciences.
Hogan expressed her appreciation at being awarded
the Lifetime Achievement Award particularly from the
Society for Developmental Biology. “It’s a wonderful
organization in every way,” she said. “I was
incredibly flattered and honored.”