UMass Medical School Professor named Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator: Biologist Craig Mello Becomes Third HHMI Researcher at UMMS

May 19, 2000

Craig C. Mello, PhD, a cell biologist at the University of Massachusetts Medical School (UMMS) whose research into the genetics of the worm C. elegans provides important insights into human development and cancer, has been named a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Investigator, one of the most prestigious and sought-after scientific awards in the world. Mello, an assistant professor of cell biology at UMMS since 1995 and key investigator at the UMass Cancer Center and Program in Molecular Medicine, is the third HHMI researcher at UMMS. HHMI is a $13 billion medical research organization that employs more than 350 eminent researchers at 72 medical schools, universities and research institutes worldwide.

"All of Craig Mello's colleagues at the University of Massachusetts Medical School congratulate him on this stellar achievement," said Chancellor and Dean Aaron Lazare. "Designation as a Howard Hughes Medical Investigator is validation of the importance of Craig's scientific work and an example of how UMMS and its multidisciplinary programs continue on a trajectory of excellence."

"These new investigators are an incredibly talented group who have begun to make their mark on biomedical research," said Thomas R. Cech, the president of HHMI. "We were looking for researchers who explore big questions and take risks - people with that special quality that leads to scientific breakthroughs and medical advances.

Mello joins Howard Hughes Medical Investigators Michael R. Green, MD, PhD, professor of biochemistry & molecular biology and director of the Program in Gene Function & Expression; and Roger J. Davis, PhD, professor of biochemistry & molecular biology, whose laboratories are funded by HHMI while the scientists retain their faculty appointments at the Medical School and continue their research. HHMI funding can reach as $1 million per year in support of laboratory and research enterprises, as well as graduate student training, library resources and other needs.

"Craig Mello is an exceptional researcher whose scientific work with the genetics of embryonic cells holds real promise for understanding how genetic mutations can lead to developmental defects and cancer," said John L. Sullivan, MD, director of the Office of Research and professor of pediatrics, pathology and molecular genetics & microbiology. "Basic science research such as Craig's holds the key to tomorrow's therapies and cures for a range of diseases."

The Howard Hughes Medical Institute was established in 1953 by the aviator and industrialist Howard Hughes. Its charger calls for the "promotion of human knowledge within the field of basic sciences and the effective application therof for the benefit of humankind." Based in Chevy Chase, Maryland, the HHMI this fiscal year will expend about $460 million for biomedical research, as well as an additional $105 million on grants focusing on science education.

The University of Massachusetts Medical School is one of the fastest growing medical schools in the country, attracting more than $93 million in research funding annually. A perennial top ten finisher in the annual US News and World Report ranking of primary care medical schools, UMMS is composed of a medical school, graduate school of nursing, graduate school of biomedical sciences and an active research enterprise, and is a leader in health sciences education, research, and public service. It is the academic partner of UMass Memorial Health Care.

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