Dr. Adrian Ferré-D'Amaré, a molecular biologist in the Basic Sciences Division, has been appointed to the newest class of Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigators. Ferré-D'Amaré's innovative research into the diverse structures of ribonucleic acid has advanced understanding about the ability of RNA to do some of the same jobs as proteins, the workhorses of the cell.
"RNA has the dual ability to function as a carrier of genetic information and the machine that information encodes," said Ferré-D'Amaré. That unique ability makes the molecule "very attractive to have been around at the beginning of life, because rather than having a blueprint molecule [DNA] and a machine molecule [protein], you could have one molecule."
HHMI appoints scientists as Hughes investigators—rather than awarding research grants. The new class of 42 men and 14 women were chosen from 1,070 applications submitted in a general nationwide competition, opened by HHMI to a direct-application process for the first time. The investigators have the freedom to explore and, if necessary, to change direction in their research. Moreover, they have support to follow their ideas through to fruition—even if that process takes many years. Altogether, the Institute will commit more than $600 million to the new investigators during their first five-year term of appointment.
[Adapted from a Howard Hughes Medical Institute news release.]