Prof. Paul Schimmel received his PhD in Biophysical Chemistry from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1966. Before he joined the Scripps Research Institute in 1997, he was a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics at MIT. His major research activities concern the decoding of genetic information, with emphasis on the rules of the universal genetic code that are established via aminoacylation reactions catalyzed by a group of enzymes known as aminoacyl tRNA synthetases. The latter are believed by many to be among the first enzymes to arise on this planet in the early stages of the evolution of life.
Having a longstanding interest in the application of basic biomedical research to human health, Schimmel is a Member of the US Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Medicine, National Academy of Inventors, American Academy of Arts and Sciences, American Philosophical Society. He holds numerous patents and is a co-founder or founding director of multiple biotechnology companies, of which seven became publicly traded on NASDAQ. These companies are developing new therapies for human diseases and disorders; one of them, Pangu Biopharma, is a joint venture with HKUST.
Led by Schimmel, the IAS-Scripps R&D Laboratory was the first of its kind, established in 2007 under the auspices of the IAS. Throughout the years, research projects in biomedical sciences have been carried out in collaboration with researchers and scientists from HKUST. In 2014, the research team of the IAS-Scripps R&D Laboratory discovered 250 previously unknown gene-transcript variants of aminoacyl tRNA synthetases. The findings, published in Science, highlight an intriguing oddity of protein evolution that has generated novel extracellular signaling proteins from these ancient enzymes, which may serve as the basis for many potentially valuable new protein therapeutics. Growth hormone and insulin are examples of widely used, approved injectable protein therapeutics.