Phillip Allen Sharp

Sharp, Phillip Allen (1944-) is an American biologist. He won the 1993 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine for his discoveries relating to the structure and function of genes. Sharp shared the award with the British biologist Richard John Roberts, who made similar discoveries while working independently.

Sharp was born on June 6, 1944, in Falmouth, Kentucky. In 1966, Sharp received a B.A. degree in chemistry and mathematics from Union College in Barbourville, Kentucky. He earned a Ph.D. degree in chemistry from the University of Illinois at Urbana in 1969. From 1969 to 1971, Sharp held a research fellowship in biophysical chemistry and molecular biology at the California Institute of Technology. From 1971 to 1974, he worked at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory on Long Island, New York, doing research in virology and molecular biology.


Sharp joined the faculty of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1974, reaching the rank of professor of biology in 1979. Until the mid-1970's, biologists believed that DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid-thin, chainlike molecules of hereditary material) was an uninterrupted string of genes. In 1977, Sharp and Roberts independently discovered split genes-genes in which segments of DNA carrying hereditary instructions, called exons, are interrupted by segments that do not contain instructions, called intronsl This discovery led to greater understanding of how genetic variations occur and how some hereditary diseases develop.

In 1978, while still at MIT, Sharp helped found a private genetic engineering company called Biogen, Incorporated, now based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. From 1985 to 1991, Sharp was director of MIT's Center for Cancer Research. In 1991, he became head of the MIT Department of Biology.