Charles Sherr on Scientific Differences at CSHL
  Charles Sherr     Biography    
Recorded: 15 Jun 2002

I don’t think that they [Scott Lowe and Greg Hannon] are actually different from other young people who are working in other organizations. But I think that the environment at the laboratory is very unique and special and it creates an atmosphere where the hallmarks of success are looked at in a different way. I’m sure that all those people up in Harvard who are fighting to get, you know, promoted from assistant to associate and get tenure and who are told that they have to get a paradigm-shifting experiment are basically engaged in an elbow-to-elbow competition with their peers. And there’s a positive and a negative side to that, right? The negative side is that the competition is frequently brutal and the collaborations get lost. I think in this sort of cloister-like atmosphere there is more of an opportunity for people on campus here; it’s a very small group to interact. They live together, they see each other, they have meals together. It’s a very intimate environment. As a result, I don’t sense that there’s a lot of intramural competition here. I think quite the opposite occurs, that people are very reinforcing. When I speak to Scott, he always tells me that—you know, he’s working with Greg doing this and this and this. And they’re always communicating; they’re always supporting each other. This is a special ambiance that I think allows that kind of collegial interaction. And it’s encouraged because it’s an educational institution. And because the values have not been compromised by the leadership here. You know, Jim—despite all of his complexity and his unorthodox behavior does have a very righteous view of the world. He’s never tried to make money doing science. He thinks the genome is owned by everybody. It should be public. He resents the fact that somebody patents a mouse and prevents other people from working. And I think that this kind of value system is important for science and has been preserved here, but has been whittled away at other places to my great disappointment. I think that makes Cold Spring Harbor special. I mean today, you know, even at a Board meeting it comes across. I think the Board members feel that this is a very unique institution.

Charles Sherr earned his joint M.D./Ph.D. degree from New York University in 1973. He is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) investigator based at the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, TN. His work focuses on retroviral oncogenes, growth factors and their receptors, and cell cycle control. In 1991, Sherr's laboratory discovered the mammalian D-type G1 cyclins and went on to identify the cyclin-dependent kinases with which they associate, as well as a series of polypeptide inhibitors that negatively regulate their activities.

Sherr is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, has won numerous awards and is the author of more than 235 scientific articles. He joined the National Cancer Institute in 1973, becoming a member of the NIH staff in 1975 and head of the viral pathology section, Division of Cancer Cause and Prevention, in 1977. In 1983, he relocated to St. Jude. Sherr is also a member of the Board of Trustees of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.