Simpson Lecture Set for May 25

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Richard A. Young, professor of biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and member of the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, will present the 2016/2017 Robert T. Simpson Memorial Lecture in Molecular Medicine at 4 p.m. on Thursday, May 25, in 100 Huck Life Sciences Building (Berg Auditorium) on the Penn State University Park campus. This free public lecture titled, “Development and Disease: The View from Chromosome Neighborhoods,” is sponsored by the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.

Young studies gene regulatory circuitry — the network of molecular controls that determine where and when genes are used in cells — in healthy and diseased cells. His research accomplishments include the discovery of the core regulatory circuitry of human embryonic stem cells. Young’s laboratory also has developed powerful genome-wide analysis methods to investigate how molecular regulators control gene expression programs in cells. These methods have been used to discover how gene regulatory programs are controlled in embryonic stem cells, in healthy differentiated cells and in cancer cells. 

Key concepts that emerged from these studies include that transcription factors — proteins that control the expression of genes — involved in determining cell state typically regulate their own gene expression; that modifications to chromatin — the proteins, RNA and DNA that make up chromosomes — span active genes in a spatially specific manner; and that signaling pathways have terminal kinases — enzymes that modify other molecules by adding a phosphate group — that generally occupy the set of genes they regulate.

Young received his doctorate in molecular biophysics and biochemistry at Yale University in 1979, conducted postdoctoral research at the Swiss Institute for Experimental Cancer Research from 1979 to 1980 and Stanford University from 1980 to 1984, and joined the Whitehead Institute and Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1984.

He has served as an adviser to the National Institutes of Health, the World Health Organization, the Vatican, and numerous scientific societies and journals. Young has founded and advised companies in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industry and is currently a member of the Board of Directors of Syros Pharmaceuticals and Marauder Therapeutics. His honors include membership in the National Academy of Sciences, the Chiron Corporation Biotechnology Research Award, Yale’s Wilbur Cross Medal, and he was recognized in 2006 by Scientific American as one of the top 50 leaders in science, technology and business.

The Robert T. Simpson Lectureship honors Robert T. Simpson and is made possible through donations from his family, friends, colleagues and associates.  Simpson was an international leader for more than 35 years in research on chromatin, a fundamental component of chromosomes, and its role in gene regulation. Simpson was at the NIH from 1970 until 1995, when he became the Verne M. Willaman Professor of Molecular Biology at Penn State. His addition to Penn State in 1995 is considered to have placed the University and the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the forefront of chromatin research and to have greatly enhanced Penn State's research and educational missions.

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Last Updated May 18, 2017