Cohen, Stanley (1922-) is an American biochemist who won the 1986 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine with Italian developmental biologist Rita Levi-Montalcini. The two scientists received the award for their discoveries of the mechanisms that regulate cell and organ growth.
Cohen was born Nov. 17, 1922, in New York City. His parents were Russian Jewish emigrants. He graduated from Brooklyn College in 1943 with a bachelor's degree in biology and chemistry. To save money for graduate school, he worked as a bacteriologist in a milk processing plant. Aided by fellowships, he went to Oberlin College and received his master's degree in zoology in 1945. He then attended the University of Michigan and obtained his Ph.D. degree in biochemistry in 1948.
Cohen joined the pediatrics and biochemistry departments of the University of Colorado. There he studied the metabolism of premature infants. In 1952, he left Colorado for the department of radiology at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, where he worked as a postdoctoral fellow of the American Cancer Society. In 1953, he transferred to the department of zoology, where he and Levi-Montalcini isolated nerve growth factor (NGF), a substance that Levi-Montalcini had earlier discovered. She established that NGF promoted the development of nerve cells. Cohen later found another cell growth factor, which he called epidermal growth factor (EGF). He discovered that this substance caused the eyes of newborn mice to open and their teeth to erupt earlier than those of mice in the control group. He went on to purify EGF and analyze its chemistry.
In 1959, Cohen joined Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, as an assistant professor in the biochemistry department. In 1976, he was appointed an American Cancer Society research professor and, in 1986, distinguished professor. There he continues his work on the chemistry and biology of EGF.