While Phillip Sharp’s 1993 Nobel Prize is tes­ti­mony to his bril­liance as a pure researcher, his equally strong cre­den­tials as a sci­en­tist adept at trans­lating dis­cov­eries into prod­ucts were evi­dent in a keynote address to North­eastern University’s PharmSci Research Show­case on Friday.

Sharp, a founding member of the global phar­ma­ceu­tical inno­vator Biogen Idec, detailed a recent example of his work in trans­la­tional research: the promising strides he has made toward “silencing” disease-​​generating genes by manip­u­lating ribonu­cleic acid (RNA) mol­e­cules. RNA is closely related to the deoxyri­bonu­cleic acid (DNA) mol­e­cule, and dif­ferent types of RNA serve dif­ferent func­tions within cells, including the reg­u­la­tion of gene expression.

We’re talking about iden­ti­fying a target, and I’ll give you an optimal drug to use in clin­ical trials in tw months” after the gene is iden­ti­fied, said Sharp, pro­fessor of biology and one of two Nobel lau­re­ates working in the David H. Koch Insti­tute for Inte­gra­tive Cancer Research at the Mass­a­chu­setts Insti­tute of Tech­nology.
Sharp said he is cur­rently over­seeing clin­ical trials of the poten­tial RNA-​​based ther­a­pies for res­pi­ra­tory and viral dis­ease and cancer with Cambridge-​​based Alnylam Pharmaceuticals.

Noting that Sharp is a “cham­pion” of start-​​ups, Pro­fessor Man­soor Amiji, acting chair of Northeastern’s phar­ma­ceu­tical sci­ence depart­ment, said uni­ver­sity researchers were hon­ored to hear his per­spec­tive on trans­lating knowl­edge into suc­cessful, pri­vate companies.

The honor was his said Sharp, adding that he spoke at the event hosted by Northeastern’s Bouvé Col­lege of Health Sci­ences to encourage the work going on here, and to acknowl­edge the strength of Bouvé’s phar­ma­ceu­tical sci­ence department.

It’s a very good phar­ma­ceu­tical pro­gram,” said Sharp, who shared the 1993 Nobel Prize in Phys­i­ology or Med­i­cine with Eng­lish mol­e­c­ular biol­o­gist Sir Richard J. Roberts for their dis­covery of split genes. “It has a very strong out­reach to the biotech and phar­ma­ceu­tical com­pa­nies, and I like to encourage people to think about working in this area.”

The day­long research show­case fea­tured fac­ulty work in drug dis­covery and devel­op­ment, mol­e­c­ular imaging and drug delivery, and included lec­tures by four of Northeastern’s leading researchers in the field: Pro­fessor Alexan­dros Makriyannis, director of the Center for Drug Dis­covery; Pro­fessor Michail Sitkovsky, director of the New Eng­land Inflam­ma­tion & Tissue Pro­tec­tion Insti­tute; Pro­fessor Craig Ferris, director of the Center for Trans­la­tional Neu­roImaging; and Pro­fessor Vladimir Torchilin, director of the Center for Phar­ma­ceu­tical Biotech­nology & Nanomedicine.

Amiji offered wel­coming remarks along with Bouvé Col­lege of Health Sci­ences Dean Stephen Zoloth.
The fifth annual event was an oppor­tu­nity for stu­dents and fac­ulty to hear from a renowned sci­en­tist with a rep­u­ta­tion for men­toring, Amiji said.

He has had many suc­cesses, obvi­ously — he is the winner of the Nobel Prize,” Amiji said. “But Mr. Sharp has also been very, very suc­cessful in men­toring. One of his stu­dents also went on to win the Nobel Prize. We were very hon­ored to hear his perspective.”