Four-member team of RNA experts to lead new institute

WORCESTER, Mass.—The University of Massachusetts Medical School today announced that a team of RNA experts, instead of a single individual, will provide leadership for the RNA Therapeutics Institute (RTI), a center through which scientists will pursue novel strategies for using RNA interference (RNAi) to silence the action of disease-causing genes. Four scientists, each widely respected in the field of RNA research, were named after substantive discussions with a leadership search committee and a number of medical school leaders.

“The RNA Therapeutics Institute is a key component of our Advanced Therapeutics Cluster,” said Chancellor Michael F. Collins, MD. “After much consideration, we recognized that UMass Medical School is already home to the most outstanding set of leaders in this field. From that field we have formed an executive group to govern the new institute. We are quite pleased with this innovative and efficient approach, and look forward to working with each of these scientists in this role.”

The executive group will be led by Nobel Laureate Craig C. Mello, PhD, Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator, Blais University Chair in Molecular Medicine and professor of molecular medicine and cell biology. The three other directors will be Melissa J. Moore, PhD, Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator and professor of biochemistry & molecular pharmacology; Phillip D. Zamore, PhD, Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator, Gretchen Stone Cook Chair in Biomedical Sciences and professor of biochemistry & molecular pharmacology; and Victor Ambros, PhD, Silverman Chair in Natural Sciences and professor of molecular medicine.

This group will work as a team to recruit new faculty and design the new home for RNA therapeutics within the Albert Sherman Center. The RNA Therapeutics Institute, along with the Gene Therapy Center and the Center for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine, comprise the UMass Medical School Advanced Therapeutics Cluster (ATC), which will be housed in the Albert Sherman Center. These three centers will work closely together and in collaboration with the existing basic science and clinical programs at UMMS to attack diseases in new ways. Ground-breaking for the Albert Sherman Center will take place this September.

The Advanced Therapeutics Cluster was formed with the long-term vision to encourage novel research for new biological therapies for a wide range of diseases. The ATC brings together three emerging scientific fields—RNAi, stem cell biology, and gene therapy—into a matrix within the school that encourages the best research minds in the world to investigate ways to create new therapies that can be moved from the bench top to the bedside. A center for each of these fields allows researchers with specific interests and skills to have daily operational contact with colleagues of similar interest: the Gene Therapy Center (GTC) emphasizes the promise that lies within the application of the recombinant adeno-associated virus; the RNAi Institute features novel strategies for using the RNAi mechanism to silence the action of individual genes; and the Center for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine seeks to unlock the enormous promise to elucidate disease mechanisms inherent in humans.

About the University of Massachusetts Medical School
The University of Massachusetts Medical School, one of the fastest growing academic health centers in the country, has built a reputation as a world-class research institution, consistently producing noteworthy advances in clinical and basic research. The Medical School attracts more than $200 million in research funding annually, 80 percent of which comes from federal funding sources. The work of UMMS researcher Craig Mello, PhD, an investigator of the prestigious Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), and his colleague Andrew Fire, PhD, then of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, toward the discovery of RNA interference was awarded the 2006 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine and has spawned a new and promising field of research, the global impact of which may prove astounding. The mission of the University of Massachusetts Medical School is to advance the health and well-being of the people of the Commonwealth and the world through pioneering education, research, public service and health care delivery with our clinical partner, UMass Memorial Health Care.


For more information, visit