Posts tagged: molecular biology

Processing of the Paul Zamecnik papers has begun

By , July 25, 2016

Paul Zamecnik (1912-2009) was the Collis P. Huntington Professor of Oncologic Medicine at Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, and headed laboratories at the Cancer Center, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston (1947-1979, 1997-2009) and the Worcester Foundation for Biomedical Foundation, Worcester, Massachusetts (1979-1997). He is known for his work across multiple fields of biochemistry and molecular biology, including the identification and characterization of the principal components of protein synthesis. He was among those who discovered soluble molecular RNA, later known as transfer RNA (tRNA,) and discovered antisense RNAs and their therapeutic potential; Zamecnik produced the first evidence for the presence and potential role of microRNAs. The Center for the History of Medicine is pleased to report that the Paul Zamecnik papers, a product of his research and career as an author and professor at Harvard Medical School, are currently being processed.

Paul Charles Zamecnik was born 22 November 1912 in Cleveland, Ohio, and at sixteen, enrolled at Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire. Zamecnik completed bachelor’s degrees at Dartmouth in both chemistry and zoology (1933), and received his medical degree from Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts (1936). He interned at Harvard’s Colllis P. Huntington Laboratories for Cancer Research and in 1938, was an intern at University Hospitals, Cleveland, Ohio. Zamecnik was a fellow at the Carlsberg Laboratories, Copenhagen, Denmark, but returned to the work at the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research, New York, New York, after the 1940 Nazi invasion of Denmark. He held a teaching position at Harvard Medical School during the war, and was then given his own laboratory at Massachusetts General Hospital focusing on the mechanisms of protein synthesis. In 1956, Zamecnik became the Collis P. Huntington Professor of Oncologic Medicine at Harvard Medical School, and continued his research at Massachusetts General Hospital until his retirement to Professor Emeritus in 1979. At that time, he moved his research laboratory to the Worcester Foundation for Biomedical Research, where he remained until 1997 when that foundation was absorbed by the University of Massachusetts. Zamecnik returned to Massachusetts General Hospital’s Cancer Center as a Senior Scientist, where he continued to work until weeks prior to his death in 2009. He was also a cofounder of Hybridon, Incorporated, Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1990 to work on the development of antisense drugs; this company merged with Idera Pharmaceuticals in 2004.

Zamecnik is known for his work on protein synthesis, and the discovery of transfer RNA, as well as antisense RNAs and their therapeutic potential. During his early career, he was able to show the incorporation of C14 amino acid into the protein in rat liver slices, which led him to develop a cell-free system with Nancy L. Bucher (1913-) in order to dissect the intermediary events. In 1956, with this system in place, Zamecnik worked with Mahlon B. Hoagland (1921-2009) and Mary Louise Stephenson (1921-2009) to show that ATP was required for protein synthesis via the formation of amino acid adenylates. During this work, Zamecnik noted that ribosomes were the site of protein assembly, which led to the discovery of a small soluble molecular RNA, first called soluble RNA (sRNA) and later transfer RNA (tRNA). Zamecnik then created the cell-free system in E. coli, which led to the deciphering of the genetic code. In 1978, while working on the structure of the Rous sarcoma virus, he showed that it was possible to create a short chain of nucleotides, or a synthetic antisense chain, that would bind to the complementary nucleotide sequence of the messenger RNA (mRNA) strand. He was successful in using antisense oligos to block the replication, transcription, and translation of Rous sarcoma virus in chicken fibroblasts, from which a new chemotherapeutic concept was born. Later in his career, Zamecnik and his coworkers used antisense inhibition in in vitro systems to interfere with the growth of the influenza virus, HIV, f. malaria and M. tuberculosis. He was the first to publish evidence for the existence of microRNA, and showed that the insertion of oligonucleotides by transhybridization could correct the cystic fibrosis gene mutation and that antisense oligos could inhibit cell wall synthesis.

Throughout his career, Paul Zamecnik was an active professor and administrator at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital. He received several awards for his research efforts, including honorary doctorates from Columbia University, New York, New York (1971) and Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire (1987), as well as the National Medal of Science (1991), and the Albert Lasker Award for Special Achievement in the Medical Sciences (1996).

The papers, created throughout Zamecnik’s research, professional, and publishing activities, include research data and notes, grant and patent materials, correspondence, and writings and drafts. They are expected to be opened to research by July 2017. For more information on the processing of these papers, contact Elizabeth Coup, Processing Assistant.

Howard Hiatt Papers Opened to Research

Howard Hiatt, probably 1972, at the start of his tenure as Dean of Harvard School of Public Health. From the Harvard Medical Library in the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine.

The Hiatt collection finding aid is now available here.

Howard H. Hiatt (1925-), M.D., 1948, Harvard Medical School, joined the Harvard Medical School faculty in 1955, was the first Herrman L. Blumgart Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Physician-in-Chief at Beth Israel Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, from 1963 to 1972, and Dean of the Harvard School of Public Health from 1972 to 1984. From 1988 to 1990, he was the Head of the Center for Policy and Education, Harvard AIDS Institute. Hiatt specialized in oncology and internal medicine, molecular biology, and biochemistry. He was also known for his public speeches and essays on the human consequences of nuclear war. During his tenure as Dean, the Harvard School of Public Health introduced teaching and research focused on molecular and cell biology, initiated programs in health policy and management, and biostatistics. Hiatt also integrated Harvard School of Public Health’s teaching and research programs with those in other Harvard University faculties, in an attempt to encourage cross-disciplinary research to bring together medicine and social science in the curriculum.

Records in the Howard H. Hiatt Papers were created by Hiatt during the course of his career as Dean of the Harvard School of Public Health, Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, and Physician-in-Chief at Beth Israel Hospital from 1941 to 2001. Records in this collection consist of: personal and professional correspondence and subject files from Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Beth Israel Hospital, and Harvard School of Public Health departments and offices, including the Office for Diversity, the Department of Health Policy and Management, the Harvard AIDS Institute, the Takemi Program for International Health, the Office of Program Planning, the Harvard School of Public Health Development Office, and the Center for the Analysis of Health Practices; ad-hoc and standing committee records such as the Advisory Committee on Planning, the Affirmative Action Committee, and the Chernin Committee on Outside Professional Activities; notes, book reviews, research files, and draft writings and publications on subjects such as nuclear disarmament, end of life care, and health resource allocation; executive administrative files including curriculum development records, meeting minutes, appointment books, grant proposals and reports; research data, lab notes, and reports from the Brigham and Women’s Medical Intensive Care Unit (Medical Intensive Care Unit) Study and the Harvard Medical Practice Study; speech and lecture files and notes; newspaper articles and magazine clippings; conference and professional organization materials; and a smaller number of photographs and memorabilia.

The preparation of this collection for research access was funded by the Council on Library and Information Resources.

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