Charles Sherr on Virology Research
  Charles Sherr     Biography    
Recorded: 15 Jun 2002

So I did one year of internship at Bellevue and then I went to the National Cancer Institute right away. And I got into George Todaro’s lab. He was an alumnus of New York University. And at the time the war in Vietnam was on and everybody wanted to get a position—everybody with an M.D. degree wanted to a position in the U.S. Public Health Service. The other choice was to go into the army and Vietnam. So it wasn’t a very good choice. And the competition for spots at the N.I.H. was very—I mean, it was tough. I think there were over six hundred applicants for each position that they had. And so there was no way that anyone would get in without a recommendation. So again I had someone from NYU—a guy named Al Stetson, who is dead now. He was really a terrific guy there. And he called up George Todaro and he said, “Well, George, we’re sending you this guy.” You know, just like that. It was non-negotiable. It was just saying, you know, we’re sending you Chuck. So I got in. So that’s how I got into George’s lab.And when I got there, I had actually done my Ph.D. degree in immunology with Jonathan Uhr. And I had no idea what a virus was. And I said to George—but having this position was more important than the subject. And I said, “You know, I don’t know what viruses are.” And he said, “Aw, it doesn’t matter. You’ll figure it out.” So that’s how I got into retrovirology—by accident.

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.