<0> Victor Ambros Joins Firefly BioWorks' Scientific Advisory Board </0>
<0> Firefly BioWorks, Inc.Anthony P. Fusco, 617-500-6245 </0>
Today Firefly BioWorks announced the election of Victor R. Ambros, Ph.D. to the company's Scientific Advisory Board. Dr. Ambros is the Silverman Professor of Natural Sciences in the Program in Molecular Medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, and serves as co-director of the RNA Therapeutics Institute at UMass Medical. His laboratory focuses on understanding the molecular mechanisms of gene regulation by microRNAs and how microRNAs function in regulatory networks affecting development and disease. The Ambros lab identified the first microRNA in 1993, while characterizing a genetic locus involved in the control of developmental timing in C. elegans. Since then, his research group has focused on the role of microRNAs in development. Dr. Ambros completed his Ph.D. at MIT, under the supervision of Prof. David Baltimore, and his postdoctoral training in the laboratory of Prof. H. Robert Horvitz. He became a faculty member at Harvard University in 1984, moved to Dartmouth College in 1992, and joined the faculty at UMass Medical School in 2008. Dr. Ambros is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and was named co-recipient of the 2008 Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research, with Dr. Gary B. Ruvkun and Dr. David C. Baulcombe, for his work on the discovery of microRNAs.
"Our decision to invite Dr. Ambros to our Scientific Advisory Board emerged naturally from our desire to build an outstanding organization working at the forefront of microRNA research," said Davide Marini, Ph.D., Firefly co-founder and CEO. "Our goal is to provide scientists with innovative, powerful and affordable tools for engaging those ambitious scientific questions that are currently addressable only by well-funded institutions. We believe turning this vision into reality requires learning from the pioneers in our field, so we are thrilled by the opportunity to learn from Prof. Ambros. In the long term, we plan to develop products that accelerate our understanding of biological systems, enable personalized medicine and ultimately increase our appreciation for the extraordinary complexity of life."
Over the past several months, Prof. Ambros has beta-tested and provided feedback on the company's first product, the FirePlex™ microRNA assay. "It has been a great pleasure to interact with the brilliant minds of Professor Ambros, Rosalind Lee, and the other members of the Ambros Lab," said Daniel Pregibon, Firefly co-founder and CTO. "We were impressed by how deeply and rapidly Prof. Ambros grasped the technical details and realized the long-term potential of our technology. We are thrilled to have him join the Firefly team and honored by the opportunity to learn from such an insightful and humble person."
The company's Scientific Advisory Board also includes MIT Professor Patrick Doyle, Firefly co-founder and technology co-inventor, and Dr. David Bartel, Professor of Biology at MIT, Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator and member of the Whitehead Institute. Prof. Bartel studies the biological roles of microRNAs and how microRNAs recognize their regulatory targets. His computational and experimental analyses have supported the view that microRNAs have a widespread influence on mammalian gene expression and help to define the various mammalian cell types. Experiments by Bartel and his collaborators have shown that microRNAs play important roles during brain and blood cell development and have illustrated how the microRNA regulation of a cancer gene helps prevent tumors.
"Victor's discovery of the first microRNA helped change the way we think of gene regulation," said Dr. Bartel, "and since then he has been a thought leader in this new and exciting field. Firefly will benefit tremendously from his involvement."
Firefly BioWorks develops and manufactures universally readable assays for multiplexed biomarker detection, with applications in life sciences research and clinical diagnostics. The Firefly platform enables detection of clinically relevant biomolecules with an unprecedented combination of performance, throughput and cost. Firefly products are instrument-independent: assays can be performed on standard laboratory equipment, such as flow cytometers, microarray scanners and fluorescence microscopes. Firefly assays require less sample preparation, provide higher performance and more versatility than any existing solution for microRNA profiling. Firefly gratefully acknowledges funding from the Small Business Innovation Research Program at the National Cancer Institute and the Small Business Matching Grant Program from the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center.
Prof. Ambros' honoraria will be donated to Partners in Health, a Boston-based charitable organization providing quality health care to people and communities devastated by joint burdens of poverty and disease.