A man in a blue shirt stands in a lab.

Richard Young


Gretchen Ertl

Whitehead Institute Member Richard Young Elected to National Academy of Medicine

Whitehead Institute Member Richard A. Young has been elected to the United States National Academy of Medicine (NAM). Along with the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) and National Academy of Engineering, the NAM provides objective, evidence-based advice to the nation, under a congressional charter. Election to the NAM is considered one of the highest honors for U.S. medical practitioners, public health leaders, and biomedical researchers.  

“I am humbled to have been elected to the National Academy of Medicine,” says Young, who is also a professor of biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). “More than just a personal honor, it is an affirmation of the importance of basic biomedical research to understanding, preventing, and treating disease.” Young was elected to the NAS, as well, in 2012.

“Rick Young embodies Whitehead Institute’s ongoing commitment to pursuing innovative and courageous science with long-term impact on the health of our nation and our world,” says David C. Page, director of Whitehead Institute.

Young’s research focuses on mapping the regulatory circuitry that controls cell state and differentiation—using experimental and computational technologies to determine how signaling pathways, transcription factors, chromatin regulators, and small RNAs control gene expression. Since defects in gene expression can cause diabetes, cancer, hypertension, immune deficiencies, neurological disorders, and other health issues, improved understanding of this circuitry should lead to new insights into disease mechanisms and the development of new diagnostics and therapeutics.

In recent work, Young and his colleagues have found evidence that the apparatus that transcribes DNA into RNA is concentrated into specialized droplets—called “condensates”—at genes that control cell identity. These condensates appear to concentrate the transcription apparatus and ensure that key cell identity genes are efficiently transcribed. The identification and characterization of these transcriptional condensates is challenging conventional views of gene control, how the genome is organized, and the fundamental operating systems of cells. Moreover, it may have significant implications for cellular control in health and disease and lead to new kinds of therapies.

Young received his PhD from Yale University in 1975, and became a Whitehead Member and MIT faculty member in 1984. Scientific American has recognized him as one of the top 50 leaders in science, technology and business; and he has received a Burroughs Wellcome Scholarship, the Chiron Corporation Biotechnology Research Award, and Yale’s Wilbur Cross Medal. Young has served as an advisor to Science magazine, the National Institutes of Health, and the World Health Organization.

 Founded in 1970 as the Institute of Medicine (IOM), the National Academy of Medicine (NAM) is one of three academies that make up the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (the National Academies) in the United States. Operating under the 1863 Congressional charter of the National Academy of Sciences, the NAM is an independent,nonprofit institution that works outside of government to provide objective advice “to improve health for all by advancing science, accelerating health equity, and providing independent, authoritative, and trusted advice nationally and globally.”



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