2013 Honorary Degree Recipient
Paul Schimmel

Paul Schimmel, PhD, is Ernest and Jean Hahn Professor of Molecular Biology and Chemistry at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI). Prior to joining TSRI, he was John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Author or coauthor of more than 450 scientific publications, Dr. Schimmel is also coauthor of a widely used three-volume textbook on biophysical chemistry. In honor of his scientific contributions he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Science, the US National Academy of Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, and the Institute of Medicine of the US National Academy of Sciences.

During his entire career he has worked on a class of enzymes known as tRNA synthetases. His laboratory discovered a universal process (carried out by the synthetases) for correcting errors in the interpretation of genetic information, and went on to show how this mechanism is essential for maintaining cellular well-being, and for preventing serious pathologies and disease.

His laboratory also discovered what others have referred to as “the second genetic code.” In a separate line of research published back in 1983, Dr. Schimmel developed the concept of what are now known as ESTs (expressed sequence tags) and the strategy of shotgun sequencing, approaches that several years later were adopted for the human genome project. In 2001, Nature magazine listed Dr. Schimmel’s work on the development of ESTs as one of the four key developments that launched the human genome project. Most recently, his laboratory established the structural and functional metamorphosis of the synthetases, whereby they acquire novel activities, both inside and outside the cell, in a variety of cell signaling pathways.

With his longstanding interest in translational medicine and its applications to human health, Dr. Schimmel is a cofounder or founding director of numerous enterprises that developed new medicines that flowed out of academic research. These enterprises have created FDA-approved medicines that have been dosed millions of times and have resulted in saving more than 100,000 lives.

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The Scripps Research Institute awarded Professor Paul Schimmel an honorary degree on May 17, 2013.