In Memoriam

In memoriam: William Weis

Lydia Smith
March 11, 2024

William “Bill” Weis, former chair of structural biology at Stanford Medicine, died Oct. 13 in Palo Alto, California. He was 64 and had glioblastoma.

William Weis

Weis was born on June 10, 1959, in Queens, New York. In 1981, he received a bachelor’s degree in biochemical sciences from Princeton University. He earned a Ph.D. in biochemistry from Harvard University in 1987 and completed postdoctoral fellowships at Yale University and Columbia Medical Center. He accepted a faculty position at Stanford in 1993 and was appointed director of the graduate program of biophysics in 1999. He served as department chair of both photon sciences, in 2013, and structural biology, in 2014; he was also a professor of cellular physiology and held an endowed chair during his 30-year career at the university.

An article in the Stanford Medicine news center called Weis a “pioneer of molecular imaging” and he was noted for his expertise in X-ray crystallography; much of his work emphasized 3D structural composition of molecules in key regulatory pathways. His laboratory website highlights his interest in intercellular junctions and Wnt signaling, which has been shown to promote tumor metastasis through mutation of regulatory genes throughout the pathway. Weis’ work looked specifically at signaling processes involving Wnt/β-catenin, which under normal conditions is employed for embryogenesis and tissue homeostasis. Dysregulation in the

Wnt/β-catenin pathway can lead to health problems such as cancer and Type 2 diabetes. Weis’ recent notable publications also included topics such as 3D structural analysis of G-protein coupled receptors such as the β-2 adrenergic receptor, which is necessary for Wnt signaling.

Weis was a five-time recipient of Stanford’s outstanding preclinical teaching award, served on multiple journal editorial boards and was elected to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences in 2019. Additionally, he was a member of the American Society for Cell Biology, the American Crystallographic Society and other scientific associations. His involvement in the scientific community expanded knowledge of structural biology, and his discoveries remain foundational to the progression of preclinical research.

He is survived by his wife, Sharin Halfon, and two older brothers, Philip and Richard Weis.  

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Lydia Smith

Lydia Smith has a B.S. in molecular cell biology and a minor in chemistry, which she received from California State University, Long Beach. She is continuing on to receive her Ph.D. in microbiology and immunology at the University of Utah and is a volunteer contributor for ASBMB Today. 

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