Professor of Genetics, Toxicology and Biological Engineering
MIT Department of Biological Engineering
77 Massachusett Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02139
I grew up on a farm in Rush Township, PA. As a summer employee in 1965 in Battle Creek MI, I co invented Kellogg’s Apple Jacks. I earned my B.S. at MIT in 1967, and my Doctor of Science in 1971 in the MIT laboratory of Prof. Gerald Wogan. After a year at the McArdle Lab for Cancer Research in Madison with Profs. Charles Heidelberger and Waclaw Szybalski, I joined MIT’s faculty in 1972 as Assistant Professor of Food Toxicology. In 1976 my group developed “microcarriers” for the mass production of anchorage dependent cells such as those used to make viral vaccines and other cell-based products. The original aim of my research group was to discover the origins of disease-causing mutations in humans. We developed the first quantitative human cell mutation assays (1976), two independent means to measure mutations in human tissues (1983-93), and a protocol to scan mutations in human organs and populations 1996. Then in 2002 -08 my lab discovered that point mutations in human tissues arise in “metakaryotic” stem cells of the fetal juvenile organs mediated by “unforced errors” of DNA polymerases gamma and beta. Now we have discovered that ds RNA/DNA intermediates are used in genome replication in fetal organogenic and adult cancer stem cells. We have now identified about a dozen drugs of diverse chemical structure that preferentially kill metakaryotic cells but not eukaryotic non-stem cells in culture. Planning for clinical trials is underway with collaborators at the Medical College of Wisconsin.