Dr. Phillip A. Sharp, currently Institute Professor, joined the Center for Cancer Research at MIT in 1974 and served as its Director for six years, from 1985 to 1991, before taking over as Head of the Department of Biology, a position he held for the next eight years. More recently, he was Founding Director of the McGovern Institute, a position he held from 2000 to 2004. Dr. Sharp's research interests have centered on the molecular biology of gene expression relevant to cancer and the mechanisms of RNA splicing. His landmark work (1977) provided one of the first indications of the startling phenomenon of "discontinuous genes" in mammalian cells. This discovery, which fundamentally changed scientists' understanding of the structure of genes, earned Dr. Sharp the 1993 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. His lab has now turned its attention to understanding how RNA molecules act as switches to turn genes on and off (RNA interference). These newly discovered processes have revolutionized cell biology and could potentially generate a new class of therapeutics. Dr. Sharp has authored over 350 scientific papers. His work has earned him numerous cancer research awards and presidential and national scientific board appointments. He is elected member of the National Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Medicine, the American Philosophical Society, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is also the recipient of the National Medal of Science and the Inaugural Double Helix Medal for Scientific Research from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. Dr. Sharp earned a B.A. degree from Union College, KY, and a PhD in chemistry from the University of Illinois. In 1978 he co-founded Biogen (now Biogen Idec), in 2002, he co-founded Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, an early-stage therapeutics company, and in 2006, he co-founded Magen Biosciences Inc., a biotechnology company developing agents to promote the health of human skin. He serves on the boards of all three companies.
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(A commencement address to graduates of Eberly College of Science, Penn State University, delivered on May 17, 2008)
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