September 25, 2015

Matthew Disney

One of the major goals of genome sequencing efforts is to enable patient-specific therapies, yet such developments have been only sparsely reported. The Disney laboratory is focused on developing general, rational approaches to design selective lead therapeutics from only genome sequence.  We are tackling this difficult problem by targeting the RNA product of genes by using several novel and transformative technologies developed in our laboratory.  In particular, we have uncovered new biological roles of RNA in cells and developed transformative approaches to allow for a disease-affected cell to synthesize its own drug.  Further, we have shown that it is indeed possible to utilize genome sequence to afford patient-specific therapies and chemical probes of function. 


Matthew Disney, a native of Baltimore, Maryland, received his early schooling in the Baltimore Catholic School System, his B.S. from the University of Maryland, College Park, and his Ph.D. at the University of Rochester.  As an undergraduate in Professor Jeffery T. Davis’ laboratory, he studied the binding of metal ions to nucleoside analogs.  As a graduate student under the guidance of Professor Douglas H. Turner, he studied catalysis of group I introns and developed approaches to determine RNA secondary structure in cells by using a combination of experiment and prediction.  Matt completed postdoctoral training at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH; Zürich, Switzerland) in Professor Peter H. Seeberger’s lab.  As a post doc, he studied glycobiology including developing carbohydrate microarrays to study and manipulate biology.

Matt began his independent career in 2005 and moved to the Department of Chemistry at The Scripps Research Institute in 2010, where he is currently Professor.  His laboratory is focused on understanding RNA-ligand interactions, and using this information to rationally design small molecules that modulate RNA function or toxicity from only sequence.  His laboratory has recently reported success targeting RNA repeat expansions that cause incurable genetic disorders, including myotonic muscular dystrophy type 1, Huntington’s disease, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, in cellular and animal models of disease as well as various RNAs involved in cancer.  Matt has received various awards including the Camille & Henry Dreyfus New Faculty Award, The Camille & Henry Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award, the Research Corporation Cottrell Scholar Award, the Eli Lily Award in Biological Chemistry, the David W. Robertson Award for Excellence in Medicinal Chemistry, and the David Y. Gin New Investigator Award from the American Chemical Society.