A world leader of research in molecular biology and biochemistry, Dr. Phillip A. Sharp is institute professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research. Dr. Sharp earned a bachelor’s degree from Union College, Kentucky, in 1966, and a PhD in chemistry from the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana in 1969. He did his postdoctoral training at the California Institute of Technology, where he studied the molecular biology of plasmids, and then studied gene expression in human cells at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory under James Watson. Much of Dr. Sharp’s scientific work has been conducted at MIT’s Center for Cancer Research, which he joined in 1974.
Dr. Sharp’s research interests have centered on the molecular biology of gene expression relevant to cancer and the mechanisms of RNA splicing. His landmark achievement was the discovery of RNA splicing in 1977. The discovery that genes contain nonsense segments that are edited out by cells in the course of utilizing genetic information is important in understanding the genetic causes of cancer and other diseases. For this work he received the 1993 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. His lab has now turned its attention to understanding 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.
Dr. Sharp has received numerous awards and honorary degrees, and has served on many advisory boards for the government, academic institutions, scientific societies, and companies. In addition to the Nobel Prize, his awards include the Gairdner Foundation International Award, the Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award, the National Medal of Science for Biological Sciences, the inaugural Double Helix Medal from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, and the 2018 AACR Distinguished Award for Extraordinary Scientific Innovation and Exceptional Leadership in Cancer Research and Biomedical Science. He is an elected member of the National Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Medicine, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Philosophical Society. Dr. Sharp co-founded Biogen (now Biogen Idec), Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, an early-stage therapeutics company and Magen Biosciences Inc., a biotechnology company developing agents to promote the health of human skin.