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Craig Mello Biography

Dr. Craig Mello is the Blais University Chair in Molecular Medicine, Co-Director of the RNA Therapeutics Institute, and a Distinguished Professor at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. He holds a joint appointment as an Investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Center. Dr. Mello is known for his research in collaboration with Dr. Andrew Z. Fire to discover RNA interference (RNAi), or the use of double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) to induce gene silencing. Dr. Mello and Dr. Fire were co-awarded the 2006 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their work with RNAi in the model organism Caenorhabditis elegans. The role of dsRNA in gene silencing has been found to be a highly conserved mechanism in diverse species, including humans. Essentially, the injection of dsRNA silences a given gene by tricking the cell into destroying the gene's messenger RNA (mRNA) before it can form a functional protein. Scientists believe that this mechanism may have been developed hundreds of millions of years ago as a form of protection against invading viruses, which sometimes create dsRNA in their replication process. Today, the use of RNAi to silence genes has become a key molecular tool to understanding organismal development, gene function, and disease.

Dr. Mello's current research remains focused on the regulation and propagation of genetic information, investigating how proteins use short segments of genetic code (20-30 nucleotides of RNA) to recognize and regulate specific genes. These proteins, called Argonaute (AGO) proteins, use short segments of RNA code - "guide RNAs" - to facilitate chemical recognition through base-pairing with specific mRNAs present in the cell. Once an AGO guide RNA has bound to a target mRNA, the AGO can either destroy the mRNA or recruit other factors that regulate mRNA expression. This process has been shown to be highly conserved across plants and animals. The Mello lab uses C. elegans to investigate the role of AGO pathways in living organisms and in epigenetic inheritance, the inheritance of gene silencing patterns. Mello works to understand the basic mechanisms that underlie AGO pathways and how these pathways regulate and transmit information in order to answer the questions: Do AGOs function in a similar manner in humans? What is the impact of inheritance of epigenetic modifications on evolution, and could these mechanisms be important in maintaining the immortality and pluripotency of germline cells? Do similar systems function to maintain memories of gene expression in other tissues, and could these programs be important in human disease and aging?

Dr. Mello received his BS from Brown University in 1982, his PhD from Harvard University in 1990, and completed a post-doctoral fellowship at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. Dr. Mello has received numerous awards for his research in addition to his Nobel Prize, including the 2003 Wiley Prize, the 2003 National Academy of Sciences Award in Molecular Biology, the 2004 Warren Triennial Prize, the 2005 Canada Gairdner International Award, and the 2005 Massry Prize. His articles appear in EMBO, Cell, and Nature, among other prominent journals.

All American Speakers Bureau is a full-service talent booking agency providing information on booking Craig Mello for speaking engagements, personal appearances and corporate events. Contact an All American Speakers Bureau booking agent for more information on Craig Mello speaking fees, availability, speech topics and cost to hire for your next live or virtual event.

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