He was born in Madrid (Spain, 1949) and studied biochemistry at the Universidad Complutense in Madrid (1966-71) and got his Ph.D. degree from the same university in 1974. From 1974-1978 he trained as a postdoctoral fellow at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland working on the molecular biology of murine retroviruses. In 1978 he started his own research group to try to unveil the molecular events responsible for the development of human tumours. His work led in the spring of 1982 to the isolation of the first human oncogene H-Ras, and a few months later to the identification of the first mutation associated with the development of human cancer. These findings, also made independently by two other groups, have been seminal to establish the molecular bases of human cancer.
During 1983 to 1988 he worked at the NCI-Frederick Cancer Research facility as Head of the Developmental Oncology Section. In 1988, he joined the Squibb Pharmaceutical Research Institute in Princeton, New Jersey, as head of the Molecular Biology Department. In 1998, he received the commission from the Director of the Carlos III Health Institute (Ministry of Health), to establish the Spanish National Cancer Research Center (CNIO, Centro Nacional de Investigaciones Oncológicas) (see the article “Returning home”, Cell 129: 641-44, 2007). Under his leadership, the CNIO became in less than ten years one of the leading research centers in biomedical research in the World. Indeed, in 2011 the Scimago Institutions Rankings ranked the CNIO 12th among more than 3,000 research centers Worldwide based on quality criteria. In 2011, he stepped down as Director to concentrate on his own research projects on the development of genetically engineered mouse (GEM) models of cancer that faithfully reproduce the natural history of human cancer, primarily K-Ras driven lung and pancreatic adenocarcinomas.
In 2012, he was inducted to the National Academy of Sciences of the US as a Foreign Member (2012). In 2014, he was elected Fellow of the AACR Academy, the first Spaniard to receive this distinction. He holds three Honorary Degrees (Doctor Honoris Causa) from the International University Menendez y Pelayo (1995), University of Cantabria (2011) and University of Barcelona (2014). His work has also been recognized by several international awards including the Steiner Prize (Bern, 1988), Ipsen Prize (Vienna, 1994), Brupbaher Cancer Research Prize (Zurich, 2005), the Medal of Honour of the International Agency for Cancer Research (Lyon, 2007) and an Endowed Chair from the AXA Research Fund (Paris, 2011). He has also been elected Member of EMBO (1996), Academia Europea (2004) and European Academy of Cancer Sciences (2009). Since their inception in 2008, he has received two Advanced Grants from the European Research Council (2009 and 2015).
Dr. Barbacid is also the recipient of several Spanish Awards including the Grand Cross “2 de Mayo”, the highest distinction awarded by the Government of Madrid (2011). He has been inducted an Honorary Member to the Royal Academy of Pharmacy (2011) and to the Royal Academy of Medicine of Valencia (2016). Other selected Awards include King Juan Carlos I Award (1984), Marques de Valdecilla Award (1987), Gold Medal, Royal Academy of Medicine of Valladolid (2007), Lilly Foundation “Distinguish Career Award”, Ramiro Carregal Award (2009), “V de Vida” Award of the Spanish Association against Cancer (2012), “Eladio Viñuela”Award (2013) and ASEICA Cancer Research Award (2015).
To date, Dr. Barbacid has authored a total of 290 publications, including 213 original research articles in journals with impact factor, 31 invited reviews in refereed journals and 46 book chapters. According to the Web of Science, his current h factor is 105.