Career Speaker: Johnathan Whetstine

Dr. John Whetstine (aka- John W) moved a lot as a kid. He ended up getting his high school degree from Bolton Agricultural High School, located in the middle of a cotton field in Tennessee. Bolton was where John found his passion for science. He heard about Punnett squares and the rest is history. However, he had no idea what it meant to be a scientist, just that he loved the idea of discovery. His high school teacher opened his eyes and heart to science, which is why John taught high school for a week every year while he was a faculty in Massachusetts.

John received his undergraduate degrees in recombinant genetics and chemistry from Western Kentucky University. His interest in combining gene control and chemistry then prompted him to join the Pharmacology Department at Wayne State University in Michigan, where he obtained his PhD. He then joined Harvard Medical School in Massachusetts to complete his postdoctoral fellowship in epigenetics. As a postdoctoral fellow, John was part of the team that discovered the histone lysine demethylases (enzymes that regulate gene expression), which he has actively continued studying at the molecular and translational level. John then moved to Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and Harvard Medical School, where he went through the ranks to associate professor and Tepper Family Scholar as well as the vice chair of the epigenetics center. John was recruited to Fox Chase Cancer Center in December 2018 with his lab moving to FCCC on July 17, 2019. He is now the Jack Schultz Basic Science Endowed Professor, Director of the Cancer Epigenetics Institute, Co-leader Nuclear Dynamics and Cancer Program and Director of the Genomics Resource at Fox Chase Cancer Center. His laboratory has established that chromatin factors are capable of driving extrachromosomal DNA amplification and rearrangements at specific sites within the genome. These regions are affiliated with aggressive tumors and drug resistance. His laboratory discoveries have changed how we perceive the regulation of DNA replication and copy number regulation while establishing new biomarkers and therapeutic targets for reducing the selection of drug-resistant DNA changes, especially oncogenes that are amplified and rearranged. John’s group has been funded by a range of sources and has also contributed to the development of the next generation of scientists at the level of high school, undergraduates, post graduates, graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. His trainees have attended top tier programs at Harvard and alike as well as become faculty at Stanford and other leading pharma like Takeda. The achievements of John’s trainees are his most prized stories about his career so far.

John currently lives in Ambler with his wife and two wonderful children.