Phil Zamore named HHMI investigator

Date Posted: 07/02/08

Phillip D. ZamorePhillip D. Zamore, PhD, the Gretchen Stone Cook Chair in Biomedical Sciences and Professor of Biochemistry & Molecular Pharmacology, has been named a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) investigator, one of the most prestigious and sought-after scientific awards in the world.

“The Howard Hughes Medical Institute recognizes creative thinkers and outstanding scientists whose pursuits add greatly to the body of scientific knowledge from which breakthroughs arise,” said Michael F. Collins, MD, interim chancellor of UMass Medical School and senior vice president for the Health Sciences of the University of Massachusetts. “For Dr. Zamore, this is an incredible moment: his research horizons are broadened exponentially. For UMass, it’s an affirmation that our institution is strengthened by energetic and brilliant faculty who have remarkable potential. We’re proud to see Phil receive this award.”

“I’m simply ecstatic,” exclaimed Zamore, who described feeling suddenly free to pursue ideas that previously felt too risky. “My lab and I can pursue ideas that interest us even if they might not meet our NIH criteria. For example, we recently came upon a very strange phenotype in a particular fly cross,” he said, explaining a defect in the phenotype that affects the development of the left or right wing, but not both. “I’ve never seen asymmetry like this, and with the HHMI backing, now we can run with it to see where it leads.”

Dr. Zamore is an international leader in the science of RNA interference (RNAi), a mechanism that cells originally developed to protect their DNA from a variety of parasitic agents that want to exploit them. His experiments have shed light on how RNAi works at the molecular level, specifically identifying that it was the small double-stranded RNA, the result of an enzymatic chopper called dicer, that precisely guided the silencing reaction of the process. To find out more about Dr. Zamore’s research, click here.