Craig Mello

Craig Mello

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Craig Cameron Mello is a Portuguese-American biologist and Professor of Molecular Medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School
University of Massachusetts Medical School
The University of Massachusetts Medical School is one of five campuses of the University of Massachusetts system and is home to three schools: the School of Medicine, the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, the Graduate School of Nursing; a biomedical research enterprise; and a range of...

 in Worcester, Massachusetts
Worcester, Massachusetts
Worcester is a city and the county seat of Worcester County, Massachusetts, United States. Named after Worcester, England, as of the 2010 Census the city's population is 181,045, making it the second largest city in New England after Boston....

. He was awarded the 2006 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine, along with Andrew Z. Fire
Andrew Fire
Andrew Zachary Fire is an American biologist and professor of pathology and of genetics at the Stanford University School of Medicine. He was awarded the 2006 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine, along with Craig C. Mello, for the discovery of RNA interference...

, for the discovery of RNA interference. This research was conducted at the University of Massachusetts Medical School
University of Massachusetts Medical School
The University of Massachusetts Medical School is one of five campuses of the University of Massachusetts system and is home to three schools: the School of Medicine, the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, the Graduate School of Nursing; a biomedical research enterprise; and a range of...

 and published in 1998. Mello has been a Howard Hughes Medical Institute
Howard Hughes Medical Institute
Howard Hughes Medical Institute is a United States non-profit medical research organization based in Chevy Chase, Maryland. It was founded by the American businessman Howard Hughes in 1953. It is one of the largest private funding organizations for biological and medical research in the United...

 investigator since 2000.

Early life


Mello was born in New Haven, Connecticut
Connecticut
Connecticut is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States. It is bordered by Rhode Island to the east, Massachusetts to the north, and the state of New York to the west and the south .Connecticut is named for the Connecticut River, the major U.S. river that approximately...

 on October 18, 1960. He was the third child of James and Sally Mello. His father, James Mello, was a paleontologist and his mother, Sally Mello, was an artist. His paternal grandparents immigrated to the US from the Portuguese islands of Azores
Azores
The Archipelago of the Azores is composed of nine volcanic islands situated in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean, and is located about west from Lisbon and about east from the east coast of North America. The islands, and their economic exclusion zone, form the Autonomous Region of the...

. His parents met while attending Brown University
Brown University
Brown University is a private, Ivy League university located in Providence, Rhode Island, United States. Founded in 1764 prior to American independence from the British Empire as the College in the English Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations early in the reign of King George III ,...

 and were the first children in their respective families to attend college. His grandparents on both sides withdrew from school as teenagers to work for their families. James Mello completed his Ph.D.
Ph.D.
A Ph.D. is a Doctor of Philosophy, an academic degree.Ph.D. may also refer to:* Ph.D. , a 1980s British group*Piled Higher and Deeper, a web comic strip*PhD: Phantasy Degree, a Korean comic series* PhD Docbook renderer, an XML renderer...

 in paleontology
Paleontology
Paleontology "old, ancient", ὄν, ὀντ- "being, creature", and λόγος "speech, thought") is the study of prehistoric life. It includes the study of fossils to determine organisms' evolution and interactions with each other and their environments...

 from Yale University
Yale University
Yale University is a private, Ivy League university located in New Haven, Connecticut, United States. Founded in 1701 in the Colony of Connecticut, the university is the third-oldest institution of higher education in the United States...

 in 1962. The Mello family moved to Falls Church in northern Virginia
Virginia
The Commonwealth of Virginia , is a U.S. state on the Atlantic Coast of the Southern United States. Virginia is nicknamed the "Old Dominion" and sometimes the "Mother of Presidents" after the eight U.S. presidents born there...

 so that James could take a position with the United States Geological Survey
United States Geological Survey
The United States Geological Survey is a scientific agency of the United States government. The scientists of the USGS study the landscape of the United States, its natural resources, and the natural hazards that threaten it. The organization has four major science disciplines, concerning biology,...

 (USGS) in Washington, DC.

After a brief stay in Falls Church, the family moved to Fairfax, Virginia
Fairfax, Virginia
The City of Fairfax is an independent city forming an enclave within the confines of Fairfax County, in the Commonwealth of Virginia in the United States. Although politically independent of the surrounding county, the City is nevertheless the county seat....

, when James Mello switched from the USGS to a position as assistant director at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. Among his fondest early memories were field trips with his father and the whole family to Colorado and Wyoming and more frequent trips to the Blue Ridge mountains in Virginia.

The Mello family had a very strong tradition of discussions around the dinner table and this experience was very important to young Mello. He learned to argue, to listen, and to admit it when he was wrong about something. At a time when young Mello was not performing so well in school, these daily discussions helped to build his confidence and self esteem. Mello struggled during the first few years of grade school. He started first grade at the age of five in a local private school because he was too young to enter first grade in the public system. He doesn't know if he was a slow learner, or just not interested, but he did not do well in school until the seventh grade. In second grade, Mello only pretended that he could read and he was embarrassed of being called on in class. He much preferred playing outdoors, in the woods and creeks, to time spent in the classroom. Meanwhile, his older siblings were model students, raising the teacher's expectations for him. During these early years, Mello had no doubt that he would be a scientist
Scientist
A scientist in a broad sense is one engaging in a systematic activity to acquire knowledge. In a more restricted sense, a scientist is an individual who uses the scientific method. The person may be an expert in one or more areas of science. This article focuses on the more restricted use of the word...

 when he grew up. He is now the father of two daughters and a step-daughter and step-son.

Education


Mello attended Fairfax High School (Fairfax, Virginia)
Fairfax High School (Fairfax, Virginia)
Fairfax High School is a public high school in Fairfax, Virginia. The school is owned by the City of Fairfax, but is operated by Fairfax County Public Schools, as part of a contractual agreement....

. He took all of the science courses offered except advanced physics. Mello liked his earth science, chemistry teachers and especially his biology teacher, Mr. Randy Scott.

After receiving his high school diploma, Mello attended Brown University
Brown University
Brown University is a private, Ivy League university located in Providence, Rhode Island, United States. Founded in 1764 prior to American independence from the British Empire as the College in the English Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations early in the reign of King George III ,...

. Mello pursued biochemistry and molecular biology as his major at Brown. Some of his teachers at Brown were Frank Rothman, Ken Miller
Kenneth R. Miller
Kenneth Raymond Miller is a biology professor at Brown University. Miller, who is Roman Catholic, is particularly known for his opposition to creationism, including the intelligent design movement...

, Susan Gerbi and Nelson Fausto. He received his Sc.B. from Brown University in 1982.

After completing his studies at Brown, Mello went to Boulder, Colorado
Boulder, Colorado
Boulder is the county seat and most populous city of Boulder County and the 11th most populous city in the U.S. state of Colorado. Boulder is located at the base of the foothills of the Rocky Mountains at an elevation of...

 for graduate studies. He took courses in molecular, cellular and developmental biology. Some of his instructors were David Hirsh, Dick McIntosh, Mike Yarus, Larry Gold, and Bill Wood. Mello joined David's lab in 1982. David's lab was filled with people, such as Dan Stinchcomb (who introduced Mello to the practice of molecular biology), who would prove to be important in Mello's future training.

During his first year in Boulder, David Hirsh decided to take a position in industry. Because of this, Mello moved to Harvard University
Harvard University
Harvard University is a private Ivy League university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States, established in 1636 by the Massachusetts legislature. Harvard is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States and the first corporation chartered in the country...

 where he could continue his research with Dan Stinchcomb, who was starting up an independent lab there.

Mello enjoyed his time at Harvard. He worked on the project and worked long hours in the lab. He took advantage of opportunities to attend lectures on a wide range of subjects. He completed his Ph.D. from Harvard in 1990. He was a postdoctoral fellow at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in the laboratory of Dr. James Priess.

Nobel prize


In 2006, Mello and Fire received the Nobel Prize for work that began in 1998, when Mello and Fire along with their colleagues (SiQun Xu, Mary Montgomery, Stephen Kostas, and Sam Driver) published a paper in the journal Nature
Nature (journal)
Nature, first published on 4 November 1869, is ranked the world's most cited interdisciplinary scientific journal by the Science Edition of the 2010 Journal Citation Reports...

detailing how tiny snippets of RNA
RNA
Ribonucleic acid , or RNA, is one of the three major macromolecules that are essential for all known forms of life....

 fool the cell into destroying the gene's messenger RNA (mRNA) before it can produce a protein - effectively shutting specific genes down.

In the annual Howard Hughes Medical Institute
Howard Hughes Medical Institute
Howard Hughes Medical Institute is a United States non-profit medical research organization based in Chevy Chase, Maryland. It was founded by the American businessman Howard Hughes in 1953. It is one of the largest private funding organizations for biological and medical research in the United...

 Scientific Meeting held on November 13, 2006 in Ashburn, Virginia
Ashburn, Virginia
Ashburn, Virginia is a census-designated place located in Loudoun County, Virginia, northwest of Washington, D.C., and is part of the Washington Metropolitan Area...

, Dr. Mello recounted the phone call that he received announcing that he had won the prize. He recalls that it was shortly after 4:30 am and he had just finished checking on his daughter, and returned to his bedroom. The phone rang (or rather the green light was blinking) and his wife told him not to answer, as it was a crank call. Upon questioning his wife, she revealed that it had rung while he was out of the room and someone was playing a bad joke on them by saying that he had won the Nobel prize. When he told her that they were actually announcing the Nobel prize winners on this very day, he said "her jaw dropped." He answered the phone, and the voice on the other end told him to get dressed, and that in half an hour his life was about to change.

The Nobel citation, issued by Sweden's Karolinska Institute, said: "This year's Nobel Laureates have discovered a fundamental mechanism for controlling the flow of genetic information."

Mello and Fire's research, conducted at the Carnegie Institution for Science
Carnegie Institution for Science
The Carnegie Institution for Science is an organization in the United States established to support scientific research....

 (Fire) and the University of Massachusetts Medical School
University of Massachusetts Medical School
The University of Massachusetts Medical School is one of five campuses of the University of Massachusetts system and is home to three schools: the School of Medicine, the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, the Graduate School of Nursing; a biomedical research enterprise; and a range of...

 (Mello), had shown that in fact RNA
RNA
Ribonucleic acid , or RNA, is one of the three major macromolecules that are essential for all known forms of life....

 plays a key role in gene regulation. According to Professor Nick Hastie, director of the Medical Research Council
Medical Research Council (UK)
The Medical Research Council is a publicly-funded agency responsible for co-ordinating and funding medical research in the United Kingdom. It is one of seven Research Councils in the UK and is answerable to, although politically independent from, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills...

's Human Genetics Unit, said: "It is very unusual for a piece of work to completely revolutionize the whole way we think about biological processes and regulation, but this has opened up a whole new field in biology."

Philosophical outlook


Mello admired and worked with Stephen J. Gould and has been inspired by his essays on natural history and the philosophy of science.

He believes that "The science vs. religion debate is over" and that it is possible to "unite rationality and spirituality in a worldview that celebrates the mysteries of existence and inspires each human being to achieve a higher purpose in life"

Involvement in RNAi biotechnology industry


Mello is involved in several RNAi-based biotechnological companies. He is a co-founder and the scientific advisory board member of RXi Pharmaceuticals biopharmaceutical company. Recently he joined the Technology Advisory Board of Beeologics, a company focused on development of RNAi products
for honeybee health and various veterinary and agricultural applications, which, according to Mello, "could very well be the first
company to obtain FDA approval for an RNAi therapy".

Awards and honors


(By chronological year of award )
  • Co-recipient (with Andrew Fire) of National Academy of Sciences
    United States National Academy of Sciences
    The National Academy of Sciences is a corporation in the United States whose members serve pro bono as "advisers to the nation on science, engineering, and medicine." As a national academy, new members of the organization are elected annually by current members, based on their distinguished and...

     Award in Molecular Biology in 2003.
  • Co-recipient (with Andrew Fire, Thomas Tuschl and David Baulcombe) of the Wiley Prize
    Wiley Prize
    The Wiley Prize in Biomedical Sciences is intended to recognize breakthrough research in pure or applied life science research that is distinguished by its excellence, originality and impact on our understanding of biological systems and processes...

     in the Biomedical Sciences from Rockefeller University
    Rockefeller University
    The Rockefeller University is a private university offering postgraduate and postdoctoral education. It has a strong concentration in the biological sciences. It is also known for producing numerous Nobel laureates...

     in 2003.
  • Elected member National Academy of Sciences
    United States National Academy of Sciences
    The National Academy of Sciences is a corporation in the United States whose members serve pro bono as "advisers to the nation on science, engineering, and medicine." As a national academy, new members of the organization are elected annually by current members, based on their distinguished and...

     in 2005.
  • Co-recipient (with Victor Ambros
    Victor Ambros
    Victor Ambros is an American developmental biologist who discovered the first known microRNA . He is a professor at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester, Massachusetts.-Background:...

    , Andrew Fire and Gary Ruvkun
    Gary Ruvkun
    Gary Ruvkun is an American molecular biologist and professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School in Boston. Ruvkun discovered the mechanism by which lin-4, the first microRNA discovered by Victor Ambros, regulates the translation of target messenger RNAs via imperfect base-pairing to those...

    ) of Brandeis University
    Brandeis University
    Brandeis University is an American private research university with a liberal arts focus. It is located in the southwestern corner of Waltham, Massachusetts, nine miles west of Boston. The University has an enrollment of approximately 3,200 undergraduate and 2,100 graduate students. In 2011, it...

    's Lewis S. Rosenstiel Award for Distinguished Work in Medical Research in 2005.
  • Co-recipient (with Andrew Fire) of the Gairdner Foundation International Award
    Gairdner Foundation International Award
    The Gairdner Foundation International Award is given annually at a special dinner to three to six people for outstanding discoveries or contributions to medical science. Receipt of the Gairdner is traditionally considered a precursor to winning the Nobel Prize in Medicine; as of 2007, 69 Nobel...

     in 2005.
  • Co-recipient (with Andrew Fire and David Baulcombe) of Massry Prize in 2005.
  • Co-recipient (with Andrew Fire) of the Paul Ehrlich
    Paul Ehrlich
    Paul Ehrlich was a German scientist in the fields of hematology, immunology, and chemotherapy, and Nobel laureate. He is noted for curing syphilis and for his research in autoimmunity, calling it "horror autotoxicus"...

     and Ludwig Darmstaedter
    Ludwig Darmstaedter
    Ludwig Darmstaedter was a German chemist and historian of science.- Works :* Ludwig Darmstaedter: Handbuch zur Geschichte der Naturwissenschaften und der Technik. Berlin 1908...

     Prize in 2006.
  • Inaugural recipient of The Dr. Paul Janssen
    Paul Janssen
    Paul Adriaan Jan, Baron Janssen was the founder of Janssen Pharmaceutica, a pharmaceutical company with over 20,000 employees. In 2005 he finished as runner up, after Father Damien, in the poll for The Greatest Belgian organized by the regional Flemish television...

     Award for Biomedical Research by Johnson & Johnson
    Johnson & Johnson
    Johnson & Johnson is an American multinational pharmaceutical, medical devices and consumer packaged goods manufacturer founded in 1886. Its common stock is a component of the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the company is listed among the Fortune 500....

     in 2006.
  • Co-recipient (with Andrew Fire) of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine
    Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine
    The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine administered by the Nobel Foundation, is awarded once a year for outstanding discoveries in the field of life science and medicine. It is one of five Nobel Prizes established in 1895 by Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, in his will...

     in 2006.
  • Recipient of an honorary doctorate by Brown University
    Brown University
    Brown University is a private, Ivy League university located in Providence, Rhode Island, United States. Founded in 1764 prior to American independence from the British Empire as the College in the English Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations early in the reign of King George III ,...

     in 2007. He gave the keynote Baccalaureate Address at Commencement ceremonies.
  • Recipient of an honorary doctorate by Simmons College
    Simmons College (Massachusetts)
    Simmons College, established in 1899, is a private women's undergraduate college and private co-educational graduate school in Boston, Massachusetts.-History:Simmons was founded in 1899 with a bequest by John Simmons a wealthy clothing manufacturer in Boston...

     in 2008.

External links