Dr. Robert B. Darnell

MITRE Senior Visiting Fellow; Professor and Senior Attending Physician, Rockefeller University; Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute

Robert Darnell is head of the Laboratory of Molecular Neuro-Oncology and senior physician at Rockefeller University Hospital. His research into rare autoimmune brain diseases led to the invention of the HITS-CLIP* method of studying RNA regulation. He is developing ways to explore the regulatory portions—known as the "dark matter"—of the human genome.

He is the Robert and Harriet Heilbrunn Professor of Cancer Biology at The Rockefeller University, and an investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. In addition, Darnell is an adjunct attending neuro-oncologist at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.

Darnell's early research focused on paraneoplastic syndromes, disorders touching on various clinical and basic aspects of biology including cancer immunology and neuroimmunology. He was the first to definitively demonstrate that naturally occurring tumor immunity in humans was caused by antigen-specific cytotoxic T cells, helping to generate the foundation for the field of immune-oncology. He also discovered that neurons have unique systems for regulating gene expression, and CLIP methods now hold promise for clinical treatment of a variety of human disease.

In 2012, Darnell became the founding director and CEO of The New York Genome Center, a not-for-profit multi-institutional academic collaborative focused on harnessing big data and molecular genetics to improve clinical care. In 2016 the center was one of four in the United States to be awarded a large grant from the National Institutes of Health to use genomic sequencing to study common diseases.

Darnell holds bachelor’s degrees in biology and chemistry from Columbia University and a Doctor of Medicine in molecular biology from Washington University in St. Louis, Mo. He was trained in internal medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine and Neurology at Weill Cornell Medical Center. He was elected to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, is a Fellow of the American Association of the Advancement of Science, and in 2014 was elected to the National Academy of Sciences.

*High-throughput sequencing of RNA isolated by crosslinking immunoprecipitation (HITS-CLIP)