UMMS INVESTIGATOR RECEIVES NIH MERIT AWARD
RNA researcher awarded prestigious five-year extension
By Alison Duffy
UMass Medical School CommunicationsSept. 3, 2010
| Phillip D. Zamore, PhD|
—Phillip D. Zamore, PhD, Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator, the Gretchen Stone Cook Chair of Biomedical Sciences and professor of biochemistry & molecular pharmacology at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, has been awarded a five-year extension of his research funding from the National Institutes of Health through the competitive Method to Extend Research in Time ( MERIT) Award program. Presented to investigators who are highly regarded in their field and have excellent records of scientific productivity, the MERIT Award will provide nearly $3 million over five years in support of Dr. Zamore’s research into understanding the mechanism of RNA interference.
Zamore is an international leader in the science of RNA interference, or RNAi, a naturally occurring mechanism that cells use to protect their DNA from a variety of parasitic agents that want to exploit them. The concept itself is defined as the ability of double-stranded RNA, ribonucleic acid, to “degrade” its homologous message when injected into cells, effectively turning off a targeted gene. A pioneer in the study of RNA silencing in eukaryotes, Zamore’s laboratory has played a role in many of the major breakthroughs in the study of RNAi.
“Dr. Zamore has been a pioneer in both our fundamental understanding of RNAi and in the development of an entirely new field of research based on RNAi. He has established a track record of producing high-impact research and has become a scientist whose work is watched closely and received enthusiastically. I can think of no one more deserving of this prestigious MERIT Award,” said Terence R. Flotte, MD, executive deputy chancellor, provost and dean of the School of Medicine.
“I’m incredibly honored to have received this award,” said Zamore. “The NIH’s commitment to fund our work for five years beyond the standard term of a grant application will allow us to pursue more difficult—and potentially far more exciting—experiments that we might otherwise worry would be too risky.” In particular, Zamore hopes to use the MERIT Award to begin single-molecule studies of fundamental steps in the RNAi pathway, as well as to study the human RNAi machinery in greater detail.
Zamore received his AB (1986) and his PhD (1992) in biochemistry and molecular biology from Harvard University and was then awarded a Life Sciences Research Foundation Fellowship and a Charles H. Hood Post-Doctoral Fellowship to pursue postdoctoral studies at the Whitehead Institute and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Recruited to UMMS in 1999, he was named a 2000 Pew Scholar in Biomedical Sciences by the Pew Charitable Trusts and, in 2002, appointed a grant recipient under the W. M. Keck Foundation’s Distinguished Young Scholars in Medical Research Program. In 2005, he was named the Gretchen Stone Cook Chair of Biomedical Sciences. In 2008, he became an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and the following year, the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology awarded him the Schering-Plough Research Institute Award for his outstanding achievements and contributions to science.
Zamore joins a growing list of UMMS faculty members who have had MERIT Awards, including:
• Robert J. Goldberg, PhD, professor of medicine
• Douglas T. Golenbock, MD, professor of medicine and molecular genetics & microbiology
• Heinrich Gottlinger, MD, PhD, professor of molecular medicine and biochemistry & molecular pharmacology
• Allan S. Jacobson, PhD, chair and professor of molecular genetics & microbiology
• Jane B. Lian, PhD, professor of cell biology
• Peter A. Rice, MD, professor of medicine
• Joel Richter, PhD, professor of molecular medicine
• Lawrence Stern, PhD, professor of pathology and biochemistry & molecular pharmacology
• Susan Swain, PhD, professor of pathology
• Gyongyi Szabo, MD, PhD, professor of medicine
• Raymond M. Welsh, PhD, professor of pathology and molecular genetics & microbiology
• George B. Witman, PhD, the George F. Booth Chair in the Basic Sciences and professor of cell biology
The project described was supported by Award Number R37GM062862 from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institute of General Medical Sciences or the National Institutes of Health.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 $240 million in research funding annually, 80 percent of which comes from federal funding sources. The mission of the 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 its clinical partner, UMass Memorial Health Care. For more information, visit www.umassmed.edu.