Falmouth, KY native Phillip Sharp currently holds the highest possible academic rank of Institute Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and is also a member of the Department of Biology and the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research. He joined the Center for Cancer Research (now the Koch Institute) in 1974 and served as its director for six years, from 1985 to 1991, before taking over as head of the Department of Biology, a position he held for the next eight years. He was founding director of the McGovern Institute from 2000 to 2004.
His research interests have centered on the molecular biology of gene expression relevant to cancer and the mechanisms of RNA splicing. His landmark work in 1977 provided the first indications of “discontinuous genes” in mammalian cells. The discovery fundamentally changed scientists’ understanding of gene structure and earned Dr. Sharp the 1993 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Dr. Sharp earned a B.A. degree from Union College, Barbourville, KY, and a PhD in chemistry from the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana. Dr. Sharp is a co-founder of Biogen and Alnylam Pharmaceuticals Inc. When asked about his roots, Dr. Sharp said, “Kentucky taught me how to work. Put your head down. Keep moving forward. And that lesson has been very useful.”