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The one hundred honoree: Mo Motamedi, PhD

Innovation Story

The one hundred honoree: Mo Motamedi, PhD

Mass General Giving

Mo Motamedi, PhD, an assistant geneticist at the Mass General Cancer Center and Harvard Medical School (HMS), was recruited to the Cancer Center from the Moazed Laboratory at HMS. During his post doctoral training, he made major discoveries in the field of epigenetics, the process by which cells develop their identities during normal differentiation. Abnormalities in epigenetic regulation recently have been identified as one of the most important, and less understood, triggers of human cancers. Dr. Motamedi uncovered novel mechanisms by which small RNA molecules in yeast models silence the activity of large stretches of DNA, thus switching on or off genes that are critical to cell fate.

Dr. Motamedi planned on building his laboratory at Mass General Cancer Center in 2010, when his mother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Born in Iran, his mother single-handedly brought her two sons to Canada and the United States during the Iranian revolution and dedicated herself to their education. Faced with this family challenge, Dr. Motamedi took a leave of absence and became his mother’s primary caregiver, moving to Vancouver to care for her until she ultimately succumbed to the illness. Now back at Mass General and Harvard, Dr. Motamedi is rejoining his now very personal fight against cancer.