American Association for Cancer Research

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The AACR Presents the Fourth Annual Margaret Foti Award to Phillip A. Sharp, Ph.D.


April 13, 2010

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — Phillip A. Sharp, Ph.D., institute professor at the David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), will receive the fourth annual American Association for Cancer Research Margaret Foti Award for Leadership and Extraordinary Achievements in Cancer Research at the AACR 101st Annual Meeting 2010.

This award recognizes an individual whose leadership and extraordinary achievements in or in support of cancer research have made a major impact on the field overall.

“Dr. Sharp is an outstanding scientist in molecular biology and biochemistry. His groundbreaking research has been paradigm-shifting, and has given us a new understanding of the genetic underpinnings of cancer,” said Raymond N. DuBois, M.D., Ph.D., provost and executive vice president at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, and chair of the AACR Margaret Foti Award for Leadership and Extraordinary Achievements in Cancer Research Committee. “He is one of the great scientific minds of our time; through his vision and dedication, he has also manifested extraordinary leadership in other areas of the cancer field. Through his contributions to scientific think tanks about cancer and biomedical research, to his guidance of cancer biotechnology and drug discovery, and to his insight of scientific review panels that are making sage decisions about funding of new cancer research projects.”

In 1974, Sharp joined the staff at the Center for Cancer Research at MIT (now the David H. Koch Institute) and analyzed adenovirus transcription. In 1977, working in parallel with, but independent of Richard J. Roberts, Ph.D., from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Sharp discovered RNA splicing. Their revolutionary finding provided one of the first indications of the startling phenomenon of “discontinuous genes” in mammalian cells. The discovery forever changed the field of molecular biology and shed a new light on the genetic causes of cancer and other diseases. In 1993, Sharp and Roberts received the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine.

Sharp became director of the Center for Cancer Research in 1985. From 1991-1999, he was head of MIT’s Department of Biology, when he was named institute professor. A year later he helped found and became director of the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT, and he held this position until 2004.

Research from his lab examines 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.

Sharp earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Union College, Ky., in 1966 and a doctorate in chemistry from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign in 1969. His doctoral thesis primarily dealt with the description of DNA as a polymer, using statistical and physical theories. Sharp obtained a postdoctoral position with Norman Davidson, Ph.D., at the California Institute of Technology, where he studied the structure of plasmids of the sex- and drug-resistant factors of bacteria.

Sharp took an additional postdoctoral year to study the structure and pathway of expression of genes in human cells. This led to a subsequent appointment as a senior research investigator at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, under the leadership of James D. Watson, Ph.D. There he and his colleagues found that human adenoviruses, which cause upper respiratory and other infections, had a growth cycle ideal for the study of gene structure and regulation.

In 1978, Sharp co-founded Biogen (now known as Biogen Idec), and in 2002 he co-founded Alnylam Pharmaceuticals.

In addition to winning the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, Sharp holds honorary degrees from 15 institutions. He has served on many advisory boards for the U.S. government, academic institutions, scientific societies and companies. He is an elected member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, the Institute of Medicine and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is also an elected fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He chairs the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) Institute’s Scientific Review Council overseeing the selection of the agency’s research grants.

Among his many awards are the 2004 National Medal of Science, the Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award, the Benjamin Franklin Medal of the American Philosophical Society, the Gairdner Foundation International Award, the AACR-Irving Weinstein Distinguished Lectureship and the General Motors Research Foundation Alfred P. Sloan, Jr., Prize for Cancer Research.

Sharp has served in several capacities with the AACR, including as chair of the scientific advisory committee for Stand Up To Cancer and on the AACR Council of Scientific Advisors. He has participated in the AACR International Affairs Committee (2004), the Scientific Review Panel (1999) and the Massachusetts State Legislative Committee (1998). He chaired the following special conferences: Gene Regulation and Oncogenes (1988), Gene Regulation and Cancer (1998) and The Role of Non-Coding RNAs in Cancer (2007).

The fourth annual AACR Margaret Foti Award for Leadership and Extraordinary Achievements in Cancer Research will be presented during the AACR 101st Annual Meeting 2010 opening ceremony on Sunday, April 18, from 8:15 a.m. until 9:30 a.m. ET, at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.

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The mission of the American Association for Cancer Research is to prevent and cure cancer. Founded in 1907, the AACR is the world’s oldest and largest professional organization dedicated to advancing cancer research. The membership includes 31,000 basic, translational and clinical researchers; health care professionals; and cancer survivors and advocates in the United States and more than 90 other countries. The AACR marshals the full spectrum of expertise from the cancer community to accelerate progress in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer through high-quality scientific and educational programs. It funds innovative, meritorious research grants, research fellowship and career development awards. The AACR Annual Meeting attracts more than 17,000 participants who share the latest discoveries and developments in the field. Special conferences throughout the year present novel data across a wide variety of topics in cancer research, treatment and patient care. The AACR publishes six major peer-reviewed journals: Cancer Research; Clinical Cancer Research; Molecular Cancer Therapeutics; Molecular Cancer Research; Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention; and Cancer Prevention Research. The AACR also publishes CR, a magazine for cancer survivors and their families, patient advocates, physicians and scientists. CR provides a forum for sharing essential, evidence-based information and perspectives on progress in cancer research, survivorship and advocacy.

Media Contact:
Michele Leiberman
(267) 646-0622
michele.leiberman@aacr.org
In Washington, D.C. April 17-21:
(202) 249-4098