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About Victor R. Ambros


Victor Ambros grew up in Vermont and graduated from MIT in 1975. He did his graduate research (1976-1979) with David Baltimore at MIT, studying poliovirus genome structure and replication. He began to study the genetic pathways controlling developmental timing in the nematode C. elegans as a postdoc in H. Robert Horvitz’s lab at MIT, and continued those studies while on the faculty of Harvard (1984-1992), Dartmouth (1992-2007), and the University of Massachusetts Medical School (2008-present). In 1993, members of the Ambros lab identified the first microRNA, the product of lin-4, a heterochronic gene of C. elegans. Since then, the role of microRNAs in development has been a major focus of his research.

Research Overview

We are interested in the genetic regulatory mechanisms that control animal development, and in particular, the molecules that function during animal development to ensure the proper timing of developmental events. We have primarily employed the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans as a model system for studying the function of regulators of developmental timing, which in C. elegans are known as the “heterochronic genes”, in reference to the remarkable changes in relative timing of developmental event that are elicited by mutations in these genes. The heterochronic genes comprise a set of interrelated regulatory pathways that include proteins that regulate the transcription of other genes, and also a class of small RNA, known as microRNAs, that regulate the production of protein by the messenger RNAs of specific target genes. Much of our research in recent years has been aimed at understanding how microRNAs are integrated into broader regulatory networks related to animal development and human disease, and at uncovering the molecular mechanisms of how microRNAs exert their effects on gene expression.


Present Professor, University of Massachusetts Medical School Program in Molecular Medicine
Present Silverman Professor of Natural Sciences, University of Massachusetts Medical School

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Honors and Awards

  • Gruber Genetics Prize (shared), Gruber Foundation (2014)
  • Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences (shared), Breakthrough Prize Foundation (2014)
  • Sven Berggren Prize, Royal Physiographic Society in Lund Sweden (2014)
  • Wolf Prize (shared), Wolf Foundation (2014)
  • John A. Benvenuto Memorial Award, The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center (2013)
  • Keio Medical Science Award, Keio University (2013)
  • Dr. Paul Janssen Award for Biomedical Research, Johnson & Johnson (2012)
  • Fellow, American Academy of Arts & Sciences, AAAS (2011)
  • Massry Prize (shared), Meira & Shaul G. Massry Foundation (2009)
  • Dickson Prize, University of Pittsburgh (2009)
  • Horwitz Prize (shared), Columbia University (2009)
  • Benjamin Franklin Medal in Life Sciences (shared), Franklin Institute (2008)
  • Lasker Award (shared), Lasker Foundation (2008)
  • Gairdner Foundation International Award (shared), Gairdner Foundation (2008)
  • Warren Triennial Prize (shared), Massachusetts General Hospital (2008)
  • Member, National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Sciences (2007)
  • Jack M. Buchanan Medal, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (2006)
  • Lewis S. Rosenstiel Award in Basic Medical Science (shared), Brandeis University (2006)
  • Genetics Society of America Medal for Outstanding Contributions in the Past 15 Years, Genetics Society of America (2006)
  • Newcomb Cleveland Prize (shared), AAAS (2003)
  • March of Dimes and Richard B. Johnston, Jr., MD Prize in Developmental Biology (shared) (2016)

Contact Information

Program in Molecular Medicine
University of Massachusetts Medical School
373 Plantation Street
Worcester MA 01605


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