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Nobel Laureate Comes to Campus to Share His Love of Science

Monday, November 04, 2013

 Dr. Civin and Dr. Mello

As part of the Nobel Prize Inspiration Initiative, Nobel Laureate Craig Mello, PhD, came to the University of Maryland School of Medicine on November 4. The Nobel Prize Inspiration Initiative is a global program designed to help Nobel Laureates share their inspirational stories and insights. By taking Nobel Laureates on visits to universities and research centers around the world, and by capturing their thoughts on video, the Initiative seeks to bring the Laureates into closer contact with the worldwide scientific community, and especially with an audience of young scientists. Videos from these Initiative events can be found at www.nobelprizeii.org

“It’s a great program, because it gives those who are just beginning their careers – and even those in the middle of their careers – a way to hear what makes a Nobel Laureate tick,” said Steve Projan, Infectious Disease & Vaccine iMED Head for MedImmune, one of the sponsors of the Initiative, along with Astra Zeneca.

MedImmune hopes to become even more involved with the science happening here on campus through a new partnership with the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB), which was announced by Bruce Jarrell, MD, Chief Academic and Research Officer, Senior President and Dean of the Graduate School for UMB. “MedImmune scientists and UMB scientists will look at areas of common expertise, with the idea that new discoveries will happen,” said Dr. Jarrell. “And the hope that students will get involved in collaborative research at this school that will lead to new corporations – hopefully in Maryland, but even around the country – that will improve the way we care for patients.”

Dr. Mello – along with Andrew Fire, PhD – discovered RNA interference (RNAi), which, as their Nobel citation says, is “a fundamental mechanism for controlling the flow of genetic information.” After his presentation, “A Worm’s Tale: Secrets of Inheritance and Immortality,” Dr. Mello conducted a Q&A with the audience, which was full of students and scientists from the School of Medicine and other  UMB schools, as well as visiting researchers who were on campus for the Ninth Annual Symposium on Translational Research in Molecular Pathology. “Science and biology research right now is so exciting,” Dr. Mello proclaimed during his speech. “We can’t help but always underestimate living things. It’s hard to put words to how amazing they are.” So instead he showed a music video of dancing nematode worms that was a big hit with the crowd.

“This is a really exciting day here, to have a Nobel Laureate, especially one who has had such an impact,” raved Curt Civin, MD, Professor, Departments of Pediatrics & Physiology; Associate Dean for Research; and Director, Center for Stem Cell Biology & Regenerative Medicine. “His was a really important prize, because this was how we found out, fundamentally, what genes do, in our bodies and in the bodies of all living organisms. How you do that is you knock down or knock out the function of a specific molecule. Nowadays we find all sorts of associations really quickly of genes with disease. But is that just a chance association? Or is that a meaningful, driving association? The RNAi discovery, the inhibitory RNA that Craig Mello and Andrew Fire discovered, was the basis for their Nobel Prize. Now Dr. Mello is inspiring other scientists – namely, today, University of Maryland School of Medicine scientists – to jump on the bandwagon, exploit his discovery, stand on his shoulders and get the next Nobel Prize.”

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