RNA Therapeutics Institute Professor; University of Massachusetts Medical School
Erik J. Sontheimer, Ph.D., is Professor and Vice Chair in the RNA Therapeutics Institute at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. A native of Pittsburgh, he attended the Pennsylvania State University, where he received his B.S. in Molecular and Cell Biology in 1987. He then moved to Yale University where he completed his Ph.D. in Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry in 1992. Following postdoctoral work at the University of Chicago, in 1999 Sontheimer joined the faculty at Northwestern University where he continued his work on the roles of RNA molecules in gene expression, including the study of CRISPR immune systems in pathogenic bacteria. Among other advances, in 2008 his group demonstrated that CRISPR systems target DNA molecules directly, and they became the first to recognize and articulate CRISPR’s potential for genome engineering. He has been honored with a CAREER Award from the National Science Foundation, a New Investigator Award in the Basic Pharmacological Sciences from the Burroughs Wellcome Fund, a Basil O’Conner Award from the March of Dimes, a Scholar Award from the American Cancer Society, a Distinguished Teaching Award from the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences at Northwestern, the Nestlé Award from the American Society for Microbiology, the Mid-Career Award from the RNA Society, and election to the American Academy of Microbiology. In 2014 he co-founded Intellia Therapeutics, Inc. for the development of clinical applications of CRISPR gene editing. That same year he also moved to the RNA Therapeutics Institute at UMass Medical School in Worcester, Massachusetts, where he is continuing his research on the uses of RNA molecules in biomedical research and the treatment of human disease.