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Election Year: 1986
Scientific Discipline: Medical Genetics, Hematology, and Oncology
Membership Type: Member
Harold Weintraub contributed greatly to our understanding of how gene expression leads to differentiation of cell types. He studied the globin gene during erythroid maturation, and the results determined the structure of the chromosome and how it changed during transcription and replication. He also demonstrated that the altered structures around the globin genes were potentially a consequence of DNA supercoiling, a process required for successful transcription. Weintraub’s research culminated with two groundbreaking discoveries: first, he discovered MyoD, a DNA-binding protein that was capable of converting a variety of other cells into myoblasts; this changed how scientists viewed gene expression during embryonic development forever. Second, he devised a procedure that used anti-sense RNA to deactivate the expression of specific genes, which allowed for the genetic analysis of cells in more complex organisms such as vertebrates.
Weintraub received his B.A. in biology from Harvard University in 1967. He continued his education at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine where he received his Ph.D. in 1971 and his M.D. in 1973. After graduating, he began teaching at Princeton University’s Department of Biochemical Sciences, and he worked there until 1977. The same year, Weintraub left the university for the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center’s Department of Genetics in Seattle. He was an assistant editor for the Journal of Biological Chemistry, Molecular Cellular Biology, Cell, and an associate editor for the Journal of Cell Biology. He was also a member of the National Institute of Health’s Molecular Biology Study Section and the American Society of Cell Biology. In 1982, he was the recipient of the Eli Lilly Award for his innovative biological research.