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Stanley Cohen

(1922 -2020 )

Stanley Cohen was born on November 17, 1922. Cohen attended Brooklyn College, majoring in Chemistry and Biology. He continued his education at Oberlin College, where he received an M.A. in Zoology in 1945, and then in the Biochemistry Department at the University of Michigan where he received a Ph.D. in 1948.

Cohen’s first job was in the Pediatrics and Biochemistry Departments of the University of Colorado, where he was involved in metabolic studies of premature infants. In 1952, Cohen moved to St. Louis, Missouri to work in the Department of Radiology at Washington University as a postdoctoral fellow of the American Cancer Society. In 1953, he became associated with the Department of Zoology, where he first met Rita Levi-Montalcini.

In 1959, he transferred to Vanderbilt University as an Assistant Professor in the Biochemistry Department. In 1976, he was appointed an American Cancer Society Research Professor and in 1986 Distinguished Professor.

In 1986, Cohen was awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine, with Rita Levi-Montalcini, for for their discovery of growth factors.


· American Cancer Society Research Professor of Biochemistry (1976)
· National Academy of Science (1980)
· H.P. Robertson Memorial Award, National Academy of Science (1981)
· Lewis S. Rosenstiel Award, Brandeis University(1982)
· American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1984)
· National Medal of Science (1986)

The following press release from the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences describes Montalcini and Cohen's work:

“The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine is awarded for discoveries which are of fundamental importance for our understanding of the mechanisms which regulate cell and organ growth. The pattern of cellular growth has long been known, but it is the Italian developmental biologist Rita Levi-Montalcini and the American biochemist Stanley Cohen with their discovery of nerve growth factor (NGF) and epidermal growth factor (EGF), respectively, who could show how the growth and differentiation of a cell is regulated. NGF and EGF were the first of many growth-regulating signal substances to be discovered and characterized.

The discovery of NGF and EGF has opened new fields of widespread importance to basic science. As a direct consequence we may increase our understanding of many disease states such as developmental malformations, degenerative changes in senile dementia, delayed wound healing and tumour diseases. The characterization of these growth factors is therefore expected, in the near future, to result in the development of new therapeutic agents and improved treatment in various clinical diseases.”

Sources:, Nobel Prize Autobiography