Robert Weinberg on Collaboration: Boston Community
  Robert Weinberg     Biography    
Recorded: 03 Jun 2016
Well, over the last thirty years, the Boston scientific community has thrived in part because it’s geographically very close. MIT is only a mile away, a mile and a half, away from Harvard Medical School, to cite an example. And that makes a difference. In California, to go from Berkeley to Stanford probably takes an hour or an hour and a half - makes a big difference. Also, since 1974, I’ve been organizing in the MIT Biology Department what is called ‘Floor Meeting,’ so I’ve now been organizing this for forty-two years. Where members of six or eight different groups meet together every week and two post docs make a presentation on their work - so that members of these different labs are continually exposed to different types of science - outside of what’s going on in their own laboratories. In 1985, David Livingston, with whom my lab was competing said to me ‘Look, we’re all friends, you,’ he said to me and David Livingston, Ed Harlow, Peter Holly: ‘Why don’t we meet once a year, the people in our respective groups, everybody talks about what they’re working on - no secrets - we respect each others confidences, we don’t exploit them and we’ll do this and we’ll get together every year and we’ve been doing that now since 1988. Initially it was called the Cold Rain [?] meeting because we held it in Livingston’s Farm in Western Massachusetts, high on a hill, he would cook one night for the meeting, I would cook the other night for the meeting - obviously with help from two to three technicians but we continue that to this day. And it established, you know, in our minds, the possibility that one could create a interactive community of researchers in which it was important not that the principal investigators or professors were talking to one another, but the people in different labs were talking to one another, they knew one another. They could ask one another questions, they could ask for help and so one gets great synergy from that. And that kind of interaction, I think has worked out very well. Now, I’m the principal investigator for a breast cancer program project where my lab participates along with five groups from the Dana Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School. Again, this cross-institutional fertilization is very important.

Robert "Bob" Weinberg is Daniel K. Ludwig Professor for Cancer Research and director of the Ludwig Cancer Center at MIT, an American Cancer Society Research Professor, and is a founding member of the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research.

In 1982 he was one of the scientists to discover the first human oncogene, Ras, which causes normal cells to form tumors, and his lab also isolated the first known tumor suppressor gene, Rb.

He co-authored with Douglas Hanahan the landmark "Hallmarks of Cancer" paper in 2000, which laid out the six requirements for a healthy cell to become cancerous.