HIRM Faculty

Director: Frank Slack, PhD 

Dr. Frank Slack is the Director of the HMS Initiative for RNA Medicine, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and the Shields Warren Mallinckrodt Professor of Medical Research, Departments of Pathology and Medicine, Harvard Medical School. He received his BSc from the University of Cape Town in South Africa before completing his PhD in molecular biology at Tufts University School of Medicine. He began work on microRNAs as a postdoctoral fellow in Gary Ruvkun’s laboratory at Harvard Medical School, where he co-discovered the second known microRNA, let-7.

The Slack laboratory is at the forefront of the small RNA revolution. They co-discovered the first human microRNA, let-7 and showed that it is a tumor suppressor that controls key cancer genes, such as RAS, MYC and LIN28. They are developing let-7 and a second microRNA, miR-34 as novel cancer therapeutics with miR-34 already in Phase I clinical trials. They also proved that microRNAs act as key oncogenes and developed strategies to target these oncomiRs for cancer therapy. Their research also extends to discovery of additional novel small RNAs in development, cancer, aging and diabetes as well as identifying novel SNPs in the non-coding portions of the genome with an eye to identifying the next generation of actionable targets in cancer.

Co-Director: Richard I. Gregory, PhD

Dr. Gregory is Professor in the Departments of Biological Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology, and Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, and Principal Investigator in The Stem Cell Program in the Division of Hematology/Oncology at Boston Children’s Hospital. He is also Principal faculty member of The Harvard Stem Cell Institute, and a 2008 Pew Scholar. He received a PhD from Cambridge University, UK in 2001, studying genomic imprinting at the Babraham Institute. Dr. Gregory performed his postdoctoral work at the Fox Chase Cancer Center and the Wistar Institute, Philadelphia. His postdoctoral research focused on mechanisms of miRNA biogenesis and function, and was supported by a Jane Coffin Childs Research Fellowship.


Since its establishment in 2006, research in the Gregory laboratory has focused on identifying and characterizing new mechanisms of RNA regulation in the dynamic control of gene expression. They apply this knowledge to explore how RNA regulatory pathways impact stem cell pluripotency, mammalian development, growth, cancer, and neurological diseases. Ultimately they aim to exploit this understanding for the development of new therapeutic approaches for cancer and degenerative disease. Their specialized research program bridges RNA biochemistry/molecular biology and stem cell research at the forefront of an exciting area of investigation focused on the regulation of microRNAs (miRNAs), messenger RNAs (mRNAs), and long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs). They have made significant contributions to identifying and characterizing key molecular and cellular mechanisms of stem cell biology including the regulation of let-7 miRNAs by the RNA-binding protein and pluripotency factor LIN28. A second major focus of the laboratory is to investigate how alterations in RNA biogenesis and decay pathways contribute to human disease. They are currently broadening the scope of their work to include additional disease genes and pathways impacting RNA metabolism. Their innovative research strategy addresses areas that are new, unexplored, and poorly understood.

Co-Director: Pier Paolo Pandolfi, MD, PhD 

Dr. Pier Paolo Pandolfi is the Director, Cancer Center at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and the Cancer Research Institute at BIDMC; Chief, Division of Genetics, Department of Medicine, BIDMC; Director, Cancer Genetics Program, BIDMC; and the George C. Reisman Professor of Medicine and Professor of Pathology, Harvard Medical School. Dr. Pandolfi received his MD and his PhD from the University of Perugia, Italy, after having studied philosophy at the University of Rome, Italy. He received post-graduate training at the National Institute for Medical Research and the University of London in the UK.

The research carried out in Dr. Pandolfi’s laboratory has been seminal to elucidating the molecular mechanisms and the genetics underlying the pathogenesis of leukemias, lymphomas and solid tumors as well as in modeling these cancers in the mouse. Dr. Pandolfi has a new theory describing how RNA, both coding and non-coding, exerts their biological functions with profound implications for human genetics, cell biology and cancer biology. His laboratory has been at the forefront of novel area of RNA::RNA interactions of oncogenic miRNAs and tumor suppressor mRNA and pseudogenes.