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Elizabeth Cooney is a health reporter for the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.
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Wednesday, September 5, 2007

UMass Medical School recruits two RNA stars

ambros85.bmpMelissa%20Moore2%2085.bmpUniversity of Massachusetts Medical School has hired two leading RNA researchers to join a group best known for Nobel Prize winner Craig C. Mello.

Victor R. Ambros (far left), who discovered molecules called microRNAs that are important in gene regulation, is leaving Dartmouth Medical School for UMass, and Melissa J. Moore, noted for her work with gene splicing and messenger RNA, is coming from Brandeis University.

"Wow, they got the A Team," Phillip A. Sharp, an MIT Nobel laureate, said in an interview today. Moore previously worked in his lab and Ambros worked in the lab next door.

Ambros, 53, earned undergraduate and graduate degrees at MIT, where he also did postdoctoral work. While at MIT he worked with two other Nobel winners: David Baltimore on the poliovirus genome, and H. Robert Horvitz on the genetic regulation of organ development and programmed cell death.

When Ambros joined the faculty of Harvard, Mello was a graduate student in his lab. Mello won the 2006 Nobel Prize in medicine or physiology with Stanford's Andrew Z. Fire for discovering RNA interference, a natural mechanism that silences genes.

It was Mello who called Ambros about coming to UMass, Ambros said in an interview.

"There's really a great convergence of bright people and exciting problems" at UMass, he said. "When I heard Melissa Moore was planing to move there, that was sort of the clincher."

Moore, 45, is a Howard Hughes Investigator who has made major contributions to understanding how RNA is edited by the cell to make sure it is intact, Sharp of MIT said.

Moore said she was recruited by UMass professor and RNA scientist Phillip D. Zamore, who also worked in the Sharp lab at MIT.

"I think UMass is just really at an exciting stage of its growth and there is a tremendous community already there for the kind of research I do in RNA and what Victor does as well," she said in an interview.

Posted by Elizabeth Cooney at 01:56 PM
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