Phillip Sharp: Pioneering the Frontier of Biological Research

Early Life

Phillip Allen Sharp was born on June 6, 1944, in Falmouth, Kentucky to Joseph Walter Sharp, a salesman, and his wife Jane Ellen Sharp, a homemaker. Sharp was the second of their three children. They relocated to Union City, Tennessee, when he was five. There, he attended the local public schools and showed an early aptitude for science. Before he was old enough to drive, he was building his lab on the family farm, where he conducted experiments on everything from plants to antibiotics.


Sharp attended Union University in Jackson, Tennessee, where he earned his undergraduate degree in chemistry in 1966. He went on to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to study molecular biology under the renowned scientist Charles Yanofsky. Sharp earned his Ph.D. in 1969 and, as a postdoctoral student, he worked with James Watson, co-discoverer of the structure of DNA, at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory on Long Island.


Sharp started his professional career with a faculty position at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1974. While at MIT, Sharp spearheaded significant advancements in molecular biology, including the discovery of split genes or introns. This work led to a revolution in the study of genetics, often referred to as the “RNA revolution.” In 1992, he founded The McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT, where he continues to work as an Institute Professor and has made significant contributions to a vast array of fields, from neuroscience to cancer research.

Personal Life

Sharp married Ann Holcombe in 1967. The couple had three children: Caroline, Daniel, and David. Sharp enjoyed hiking and skiing with his family in New England’s mountains. His love of nature translated into his work on a biosphere project in Arizona. He was also an accomplished guitarist, and often played at local clubs in the Boston area.

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Challenges and Struggles

Sharp’s life has not been without its ups and downs. In 2004, during a period of budget cuts, MIT decided to close the McGovern Institute. Sharp and his colleagues mounted a public campaign to save the institute—a campaign that ultimately succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. The institute reopened in 2006 with a new $350 million donation. Sharp also overcame a major personal obstacle in 2012 when he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He underwent treatment and had recovered by the end of the year.


Sharp’s research has paved the way for a new era of medicine and biology. His work on split genes and RNA have led to entirely new fields of research and medical treatment, including targeted therapies for cancer. His contributions to the scientific community have earned him numerous accolades, including the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1993. Sharp has also impacted the lives of many students, mentees, and colleagues. His dedication to science and creating an environment for others to succeed has inspired and influenced generations of researchers.

Phillip Sharp is a pioneer in molecular biology, paving the way for new avenues of research and medical therapies. His dedication to science and advocacy for research has left an incredible legacy, inspiring a new wave of young researchers to continue innovating and exploring the frontiers of biological research.

Famous quote from Phillip Sharp

1. “Science is an endless frontier. There are always new questions to ask, new pathways to explore, and new horizons to reach.”

2. “The essence of science is the willingness to constantly challenge ourselves and our assumptions, to embrace uncertainty and ambiguity, and to remain open to the possibility of new discoveries.”

3. “As scientists, we have a responsibility not just to generate new knowledge, but to use that knowledge to make a positive impact on the world around us.”

4. “Collaboration and teamwork are essential to scientific progress. No one person can solve all of the world’s problems, but together, we can make a real difference.”

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5. “The most exciting moments in science are when you make a discovery that challenges everything you thought you knew, and opens up entirely new realms of possibility.”

Technology inspired from Phillip Sharp

Phillip Allen Sharp is a renowned American geneticist and molecular biologist who has made significant contributions to the field of biotechnology. His groundbreaking research on gene splicing and RNA splicing led to the development of new technologies and inventions that have revolutionized the field of biology.

One such invention is the production of monoclonal antibodies. Monoclonal antibodies are artificially produced antibodies that target specific molecules in the body, such as cancer cells. Sharp’s research on gene splicing and RNA splicing led to the development of techniques for producing monoclonal antibodies that are specific to certain cancer cells. This has revolutionized cancer treatment by providing a more targeted and personalized therapy option.

Another technology inspired by Sharp’s legacy is CRISPR-Cas9. CRISPR-Cas9 is a genome editing technology that allows for precise modification of DNA sequences. It works by using a bacterial protein called Cas9, which can cut DNA at specific locations. Sharp’s research on gene splicing and RNA splicing played an important role in the development of this technology. CRISPR-Cas9 has the potential to transform medicine by providing a cure for genetic disorders.

Overall, Phillip Sharp’s legacy has inspired innovations in the field of biotechnology and has led to the development of technologies and inventions that are transforming the way we approach medicine and genetic disorders.