Member, Whitehead Institute

Richard A. Young

The Young laboratory studies regulation of gene expression in health and disease.

Rick Young stands smiling with his hands in his pockets.

455 Main St
Cambridge, MA 02142
United States


Achievements & Honors

Developed technology to map human genome regulatory circuitry
Discovered core regulatory circuitry of human embryonic stem cells
Recognized among top 50 leaders in science, technology and business by Scientific American (2006)
Elected member of the National Academy of Sciences (2012)
Elected member of the National Academy of Medicine (2019)


Member, Whitehead Institute
Professor of Biology, MIT


How are genes regulated in healthy cells and how does this go awry in diseases like cancer?


The Young Lab uses experimental and computational technologies to discover how the genome specifies the different cell types that make up our body. Their research focuses on several broad areas.

One such area is transcriptional regulatory circuitry. The lab is interested in the regulatory circuitry that controls the entire gene expression program that specifies each of our cells. Since defects in gene expression can cause diabetes, cancer and neurological disorders, improved understanding of this circuitry can lead to new insights into disease and the development of new therapeutics.

Another broad focus of the lab is the protein and RNA machinery that controls gene expression during development. Human development begins with a single fertilized cell and leads to an organism with 10^13 cells with over 200 different cell types. Each cell type has a unique gene expression program that is controlled by the combined action of key transcription factors, chromatin regulators and RNA molecules. The lab investigates how this machinery operates to transcribe genes properly and how it becomes dysfunctional in disease. 

The traditional view of cell biology is that cellular functions occur within membrane-bound compartments such as the nucleus, where the genome is located and gene regulation takes place. Young and his lab have shown that gene regulation actually occurs within biomolecular condensates -- tiny, non-membrane-bound organelles where the machinery that transcribes genes is compartmentalized and concentrated. They recently discovered that these condensate compartments play an important role in drug action in cancer. These findings are changing our understanding of gene regulation in healthy and disease cells and leading to new therapeutic concepts for disease treatment.


Young received his PhD from Yale University in 1975, and became a Whitehead Member in 1984. Scientific American recognized him as one of the top 50 leaders in science, technology and business in 2006 and his awards include 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.


Selected publications

Charles H Li, Eliot L Coffey, Alessandra Dall'Agnese, Nancy M Hannett, Xin Tang, Jonathan E Henninger, Jesse M Platt, Ozgur Oksuz, Alicia V Zamudio, Lena K Afeyan, Jurian Schuijers, X Shawn Liu, Styliani Markoulaki, Tenzin Lungjangwa, Gary LeRoy, Devon S Svoboda, Emile Wogram, Tong Ihn Lee, Rudolf Jaenisch, Richard A Young
Isaac A Klein, Ann Boija, Lena K Afeyan, Susana Wilson Hawken, Mengyang Fan, Alessandra Dall'Agnese, Ozgur Oksuz, Jonathan E Henninger, Krishna Shrinivas, Benjamin R Sabari, Ido Sagi, Victoria E Clark, Jesse M Platt, Mrityunjoy Kar, Patrick M McCall, Alicia V Zamudio, John C Manteiga, Eliot L Coffey, Charles H Li, Nancy M Hannett, Yang Eric Guo, Tim-Michael Decker, Tong Ihn Lee, Tinghu Zhang, Jing-Ke Weng, Dylan J Taatjes, Arup Chakraborty, Phillip A Sharp, Young Tae Chang, Anthony A Hyman, Nathanael S Gray, Richard A Young
Alicia V Zamudio, Alessandra Dall'Agnese, Jonathan E Henninger, John C Manteiga, Lena K Afeyan, Nancy M Hannett, Eliot L Coffey, Charles H Li, Ozgur Oksuz, Benjamin R Sabari, Ann Boija, Isaac A Klein, Susana W Hawken, Jan-Hendrik Spille, Tim-Michael Decker, Ibrahim I Cisse, Brian J Abraham, Tong I Lee, Dylan J Taatjes, Jurian Schuijers, Richard A Young