In This Section
Gregory J. Hannon, PhD

Gregory J. Hannon, PhD

Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute
Cambridge, United Kingdom

Class of 2020

For fundamental contributions to characterizing the role of cyclin-dependent kinases and small RNAs including microRNAs, piwi-interacting, and short-hairpin RNAs in cell cycle regulation, carcinogenesis, and drug development.

A world-renowned cancer researcher, Dr. Hannon is heralded for his contributions to the field of cancer biology including his work dedicated to integrating small RNA biology with genomics to better understand the etiology of disease and identify new drug targets for the treatment of cancer. His research has elucidated the fundamental mechanisms of cell cycle regulation, with key discoveries including his identification of cyclin-dependent kinase (CDK) inhibitors and characterization of their role in cancer progression. Dr. Hannon and colleagues discovered p15, a tumor suppressor protein that inhibits CDK, a protein that has since been proven to be critically important in tumor cells to prevent cell growth and division. In addition, Dr. Hannon co-led research studies that led to the identification of another CDK inhibitor and tumor suppressor, p16, and demonstrated that this protein is capable of decelerating cell cycle progression at the G1-S transition.  He also contributed to the discovery of a third CDK inhibitor, p21, who’s loss of function leads to neoplastic transformation.  

Dr. Hannon has also made groundbreaking contributions towards the understanding of small RNAs and the role that they play in cancer, including developing genome-wide short hairpin RNA (shRNA) libraries and microRNAs. Together with his research group, Dr. Hannon demonstrated in Drosophila melanogaster that specific mRNA transcript targets can be silenced using complimentary double-stranded RNA molecules that signal for enzymatic degradation. He also characterized key enzymes involved in the silencing pathway, namely Dicer and Argonaute. In subsequent groundbreaking studies, Dr. Hannon developed a protocol by which to stably knock-down gene expression in mammalian cells using RNAi technology. He also elucidated key factors of the piwi-interacting RNA (piRNA) pathway and the critical role of such RNA during embryonic development. He is also credited with developing genome partitioning technologies including exome capture and with contributing to the generation of virtual reality tumor maps to further understand the molecular composition and interactions of tumor cells in an attempt to develop personalized therapies for patients. 

Selected Awards and Honors 

2019 ~ Elected Fellow, European Academy of Cancer Sciences, Stockholm, Sweden 
2018 ~ Elected Fellow, The Royal Society, London, United Kingdom 
2018 ~ Elected Member, European Molecular Biology Organization, Heidelberg, Germany 
2017 ~ Elected Fellow, Academy of Medical Sciences, London, United Kingdom 
2015 ~ Wolfson Professor of Molecular Cancer Biology, The Royal Society, London, United Kingdom  
2012 ~ Elected Member, National Academy of Sciences, Washington, DC 
2007 ~ Paul Marks Prize for Cancer Research, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York, New York  
2007 ~ NAS Award in Molecular Biology, National Academy of Sciences, Washington, DC 
2005 ~ AACR Award for Outstanding Achievement in Cancer Research, American Association for Cancer Research, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 
2002 ~ Innovator Award, Breast Cancer Research Program, Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs, U.S. Department of Defense, Fort Detrick, Maryland 
2000 ~ Rita Allen Scholar, Rita Allen Foundation, Princeton, New Jersey