Monday, 11 November 2013

Dr. Craig Mello visits Maryland

Dr Craig Mello visited Maryland, United States on 4th and 5th November 2013, as part of the Nobel Prize Inspiration Initiative. There he met researchers from:
  • University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB)
  • Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore (JHU)
  • AstraZeneca MedImmune Campus in Gaithersburg

The schedule for Monday 4th November was packed, with a visit to both UMB and JHU for Dr Mello. At UMB, he was welcomed by James L. Hughes (pictured below), Chief Enterprise and Economic Development Officer and Vice President of the Office of Research and Development.

After a breakfast with executives from UMB, Dr Mello was introduced to a packed auditorium by Dr Bruce E. Jarrell (pictured below), Chief Academic and Research Officer, Senior President, Dean of the UMB Graduate School. Dr Jarrell said that he looked forward to hearing stories from Dr Mello, as "It's stories that we remember & that make us human"

Steve Projan, Infectious Disease & Vaccines iMED Head, MedImmune also said a few words about the relationship between academia and industry in medical research, and encouraged the students to make the most of the opportunity to speak with Dr Mello.

Adam Smith, Editorial Director of Nobel Media talked about the Nobel Prize Inspiration Initiative, and then it was on to Dr Mello's talk “A Worm’s Tale: Secrets of Inheritance and Immortality”

The opening of the talk was nothing less than an ode to nematode worm, with a high-energy soundtrack! Dr Mello pondered everything from the beginnings of life in the Universe, to his most recent work on DNA translation using CRISPR (which is making headlines in many newspapers at the moment!). Dr Mello also spoke about Nobel-awarded work on RNA-interference (RNAi). RNAi is often referred to as the search engine of cell and it allows researchers to rapidly “knock out” the expression of specific genes and to thus define the biological functions of those genes. RNAi also provides a potential therapeutic avenue to silence genes that contribute to disease.

After a fascinating talk and a busy Q&A session, it was on to lunch with a group of UMB students, in the beautiful Museum of Dentistry. Dr Mello spent time with each of the students, and made sure to have a photo opp with them too.

Once lunch was over, it was off to Johns Hopkins University. Dr Mello was introduced to another full auditorium by Landon King, Executive Vice Dean, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Dr Mello gave another fascinating talk, where he introduced the "real Nobel Prize Winner" - the nematode worm.

At JHU, Dr Mello also spent over an hour speaking with students at a Round Table - there were some great questions asked, and very fruitful discussions on topics from publishing, to work-life-balance and the challenges facing today's young scientists. Dr Mello rounded off a busy day with a working dinner!

The next morning on 5th November, it was an early start to visit MedImmune, a key sponsor for this event. Bahija Jallal, Executive Vice President, MedImmune introduced Dr Mello to the large audience of scientists, all eager to hear more about RNAi. Dr Mello's talk was once again fascinating - he introduced the germline "...the immortal lineage" 

Dr Mello's talk ended on a very poignant note - a picture of his daughter, surrounded by gold Nobel medals (containing chocolate!). She is diabetic, and without insulin, she could not survive. Dr Mello used the opportunity to urge scientists working in drug discovery to collaborate, saying "We must be open and work together. This is not a game we're playing, people like my daughter depend on medical research"

Here, the audience for the Q&A was a little different - scientists at all stages of their career, working in the pharma industry. Despite that, many of the interactions were similar to those Dr. Mello had with a student audience. Scientists have the same concerns everywhere - dealing with negative reviews of work, publishing in the 'right' journals, knowing when to move on to something new... and Dr Mello discussed all of these and more with the scientists at  MedImmune.

After a lunch with MedImmune's junior scientists, Dr Mello was interviewed by the Nobel Media team - during that interview, we think we managed to capture some real insights into Dr Mello's career, his life, his research and his background - we can't wait to share them with you on our site  over the coming weeks and months. All of Dr. Mello's visit was filmed by our hardy film crew, who took a well-earned break afterwards!

It looks like Dr Mello's visit was well-received - have a look at a selection of tweets from the event itself! Storify account of Dr. Mello's visit

All of the event photos, Dr Mello's lecture video, and a collection of highlights from the event can be viewed here.

Soon we'll share the many many pearls of wisdom that Dr Mello shared on his trip, in the form of bit-sized-clips. Expect to hear about everything from his experience at school, to receiving that phone call from Stockholm.

About Nobel Laureate Craig Mello
Dr. Craig C. Mello is an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in Chevy Chase, Maryland, United States, and holds the Blais University Chair in Molecular Medicine and is Co-Director of the RNA Therapeutics Institute at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, Massachusetts. Dr. Mello shared the 2006 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Dr. Andrew Fire, for their “discovery of RNA interference (RNAi) - gene silencing by double-stranded RNA.”

Before the Nobel Prize, Dr. Mello’s work on RNAi was recognised with several awards including the National Academy of Sciences Molecular Biology Award, the Canadian Gairdner International Award, the Paul Ehrlich and Ludwig Darmstaedter Award, and the Dr. Paul Janssen Award for Biomedical Research. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society.

About the Nobel Prize Inspiration Initiative and Nobel Media AB
The Nobel Prize Inspiration Initiative is a global program that brings Nobel Laureates to universities and research centers to inspire and engage young scientists, the scientific community and the general public by sharing the exciting stories about the Nobel Laureates and their Nobel Prize-awarded achievements. The Initiative is organized by Nobel Media AB, the company managing media rights for the Nobel Prize. Please visit:    Nobel Media®, Nobel Prize® are registered trademarks of the Nobel Foundation.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Nobel Laureates: Their Early Inspirations

...Admit it. Plenty of us have pictured how we would respond to THAT phone call from Stockholm, telling us that we’d been awarded a Nobel Prize. But it’s good to know that many of the science Nobel Laureates admit to having had that same daydream too! Peter Agre, who shared the 2003 Chemistry Prize with Roderick MacKinnon, was very honest when speaking to a group of Russian students:

Each of the Nobel Prizes can be shared between up to three individuals each year, but even then, the actual number of Nobel Laureates in the sciences is tiny. In total, 565 people have been awarded one of the Science Prizes (Physiology or Medicine, Physics and Chemistry) since 1901, and that includes the eight newest Laureates announced last week. Higgs, Levitt and Schekman and their fellow awardees, find themselves in a very privileged position! But did they ever really think that they would be awarded a Nobel Prize?

Elizabeth Blackburn, who shared the Medicine or Physiology prize with Jack Szostak and her colleague Carol Greider in 2009, never expected the odds to fall in her favour:

Did these highly-respected researchers always dream of becoming scientists? And what were their early influences? Oliver Smithies, who shared the 2007 Medicine or Physiology prize with Mario Capecchi and Sir Martin Evans, describes what he wanted to be when he grew up – how would you answer that question?

And Peter Doherty, who shared the 1996 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Rolf M. Zinkernagel, realised that he was good at science in school, but may have ended up on a completely different road:

It’s clear from answers like this that the one thing that these scientists have in common is their love for their work. But, were they always destined for scientific greatness? Many “Science Laureates” hail from scientific families – Bruce Beutler, the 2011 Nobel Laureate in Physiology or Medicine spoke fondly to an American student about the role that science played in his childhood:

These clips form part of the Nobel Prize Inspiration Initiative (NPII), which aims to inspire and communicate with scientists, at all stages of their career. The initiative, led by Nobel Media, brings a Laureate to a series of universities, where they give a lecture and take part in series of Q&A sessions with young scientists. This new website hopes to extend the reach of the initiative, by sharing of the content from these events with a global audience of scientists. The collection of short clips and lecture videos allows the Laureates to share their insights on everything from their childhood, through to communicating research, career options, and maintaining a good work-life balance.

You can also follow the initiative on Twitter @NobelPrizeii or Facebook #NPII