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Utah Governor’s Medal given to Neli Ulrich, PhD, MS, for outstanding research and leadership

Salt Lake City — Neli Ulrich, PhD, MS, chief scientific officer and executive director of the Comprehensive Cancer Center at Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah (the U) and professor of Population Health Sciences at the U, has been awarded the 2024 Governor’s Medal for Science and Technology.

The prize recognizes the recipient’s distinguished service and meaningful contributions to science in the state of Utah.

“This award celebrates Ulrich’s exceptional leadership abilities at Huntsman Cancer Institute,” says Utah Gov. Spencer Cox. “Utah is proud to be home to such a world-renowned institution, and we commend her in her research efforts toward curing cancer.”

Ulrich, a native of Germany, first came to Utah and Huntsman Cancer Institute a decade ago. As a renowned expert in cancer research with more than 450 scientific publications, she has led Huntsman Cancer Institute’s research teams to an “exceptional” national rating, the highest rank achievable from the National Cancer Institute.

“It’s a very special honor to be recognized by the governor of Utah for science and technology, which we know are critical for accelerating our joint progress in this world, and in our state,” says Ulrich. “The award is not really about me but the amazing cancer research teams at Huntsman Cancer Institute, where we bring together people of diverse backgrounds to collaborate in ways that are unique and impactful in the service of our patients, our state, and our region.”

“Her relentless dedication and drive to push boundaries through collaboration has shaped and will continue to drive the landscape of innovation in Utah and beyond.”

—Mary Beckerle, PhD

Ulrich is one of just a few women who serve as director of a National Cancer Institute-designated Cancer Center. In this role, she has led a variety of initiatives to address gaps in health care seen in rural patients across Utah and the Mountain West. Under her leadership, Huntsman Cancer Institute has developed clinical trials that serve remote populations and created community partnerships to lessen the burden of distance as a disparity in cancer prevention, screening, and treatment.

She also oversees more than 250 research teams at Huntsman Cancer Institute, each pursuing a cancer-free frontier through laboratory, clinical, translational, and population-based research. Her team, the Ulrich Group, has performed landmark research on colorectal cancer prevention and survivorship.

“Dr. Ulrich embodies the pioneering spirit of the Governor’s Medal which is demonstrated by her numerous scientific achievements,” says Mary Beckerle, PhD, CEO of Huntsman Cancer Institute. “Her relentless dedication and drive to push boundaries through collaboration has shaped and will continue to drive the landscape of innovation in Utah and beyond.”

Ulrich is one of three recipients of the Governor’s Medal this year. She received her prize for accomplishments in academics and research. Others are awarded for K-12 scientific education and advancements in local industry. Ulrich will be presented with the award at the 2024 One Utah Summit. The summit, held on April 12, aims to recognize individuals and companies making significant contributions to Utah’s economy, local communities, and industries.

“I’m thrilled to see Dr. Ulrich honored with this distinction,” says Angela Fagerlin, PhD, associate vice president for faculty at University of Utah Health. “She is an outstanding leader and scientist who is saving and improving lives with her groundbreaking research. Under her stewardship, investigators at Huntsman Cancer Institute are helping create a future free from cancer.”

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Heather Simonsen
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Huntsman Cancer Institute
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About Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah

Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah (the U) is the National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center for Utah, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, and Wyoming. With a legacy of innovative cancer research, groundbreaking discoveries, and world-class patient care, we are transforming the way cancer is understood, prevented, diagnosed, treated, and survived. Huntsman Cancer Institute focuses on delivering a cancer-free frontier to all communities in the area we serve. We have more than 300 open clinical trials and 250 research teams studying cancer at any given time. More genes for inherited cancers have been discovered at Huntsman Cancer Institute than at any other cancer center. Our scientists are world-renowned for understanding how cancer begins and using that knowledge to develop innovative approaches to treat each patient’s unique disease. Huntsman Cancer Institute was founded by Jon M. and Karen Huntsman.