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H MS c352

Zamecnik, Paul Charles, 1912-2009. Papers, 1910-2001 (inclusive), 1931-2009 (bulk): Finding Aid.

Center for the History of Medicine (Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine)

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Center for the History of Medicine (Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine)

© President and Fellows of Harvard College

Descriptive Summary

Call No.: H MS c352
Repository: Center for the History of Medicine (Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine)
Creator: Zamecnik, Paul Charles, 1912-2009
Title: Paul Charles Zamecnik papers
Date(s): 1910-2011 (inclusive)
Date(s): 1931-2009 (bulk)
Quantity: 97.66 cubic feet (97 records center cartons, 3 letter size document boxes, 8 oversized boxes)
Quantity: 1.36 Gigabytes (electronic records on network storage)
Language of materials: Papers are predominantly in English. Some papers are in Dutch, French, German, and Russian.
Abstract: The Paul Charles Zamecnik papers, 1910-2011 (inclusive), 1931-2009 (bulk) are the product of Zamecnik's research, writing, publishing, teaching, administrative, and professional activities throughout his career. The materials result from Zamecnik's work at Harvard Medical School, the Collis P. Huntington Memorial Hospital, Massachusetts General Hospital, the Worcester Foundation for Experimental Biology, Hybridon, Inc., and ZATA Pharmaceuticals, Inc., as well as a brief period working at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. The papers are arranged in seven series: I. Research Records, 1931-2009; II. Correspondence, 1931-2010; III. Writings and Publications, 1935-2010; IV. Professional Activities Records, 1932-2010; V. Harvard Medical School Records, 1955-1990; VI. Massachusetts General Hospital Records, 1942-2009; and VII. Photographs and Slides, 1934-2008.

Immediate Source of Acquisition:

The collection was donated by Paul Charles Zamecnik's daughter and laboratory assistant Karen Zamecnik Pierson, with an initial 173 cubic feet donated on 2011 January 26 in Accession 2011-017, and another accrual of five cubic feet donated on 2011 December 06 in Accession 2012-047.
  • Accession number 2011-017. Karen Zamecnik Pierson. 2011 January 26.
  • Accession number 2012-047. Karen Zamecnik Pierson. 2011 December 06.
  • Processing Information:

    Processed by Betts Coup, 2017 May.
    Processing staff in the Center for the History of Medicine analyzed, arranged, and described the papers, and created a finding aid to improve access. Items were removed from three ring binders and, where necessary, photocopied to acid-free paper. Processing staff discarded duplicate records and records that did not meet the collection policy of the Center for the History of Medicine. Folder titles were transcribed from the originals as available. All electronic media (as found in Series I, II, III, and IV) were imaged using Access Data's FTK and a Forensic Recovery of Evidence Device. Electronic records were then transferred to secure network storage. Electronic files that could be opened were sampled for content, however, researchers should be aware that not every file in the collection could be opened and assessed. Files for which specific software was needed, but not available to staff at the time of processing, were not reviewed. Electronic media that could not be imaged were retained (and are noted in a local inventory), and any media determined to be blank were discarded. All audio recordings were flagged for inclusion in the Center's AV survey.

    Conditions Governing Access:

    Collection is open for research. Some restrictions apply (see below).
    Access requires advance notice. Contact Public Services for further information.
    Access to Harvard University records is restricted for 50 years from the date of creation. These restrictions are noted where they appear in Series I through Series VI. Access to personal and patient information is restricted for 80 years from the date of creation. These restrictions appear in Series I through Series VII. Researchers may apply for access to restricted records. Consult Public Services for further information.
    Access to electronic records in this collection (as found in Series I, II, III, and IV) is also subject to the above restrictions. Additionally, access is premised on the availability of a computer station, requisite software, and/or the ability of Public Services staff to review and/or print out records of interest in advance of an on-site visit.

    Conditions Governing Use:

    The Harvard Medical Library Library does not hold copyright on all the materials in the collection. Requests for permission to publish material from the collection should be directed to Public Services. Researchers who obtain permission to publish from Public Services are responsible for identifying and contacting the persons or organizations that hold copyright.

    Preferred Citation:

    Paul Charles Zamecnik papers, 1910-2011 (inclusive), 1931-2009 (bulk). H MS c352. Harvard Medical Library, Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine, Boston, Mass.

    Related Collections in the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine, Center for the History of Medicine

    Separations

    Biographical Note

    Paul Charles Zamecnik (1912-2009) was the Collis P. Huntington Professor of Oncologic Medicine at Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, and headed the Collis P. Huntington Laboratory (1947-1979) and a laboratory at the Cancer Center, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston (1997-2009), as well as a laboratory at the Worcester Foundation for Biomedical Foundation, Worcester, Massachusetts (1979-1997). He is known for his work across multiple fields of biochemistry and molecular biology, including the identification and characterization of the principal components of protein synthesis. He was among those who discovered soluble molecular RNA, later known as transfer RNA (tRNA,) and discovered antisense RNAs and their therapeutic potential; Zamecnik produced the first evidence for the presence and potential role of microRNAs. The papers contain records relating to his work as a researcher, laboratory scientist, professor, and author, as well as his professional activities.
    Paul Charles Zamecnik was born 22 November 1912 in Cleveland, Ohio, and at sixteen, enrolled at Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire. Zamecnik completed his bachelor's degree at Dartmouth focusing on both chemistry and zoology (1933), and received his medical degree from Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts (1936). He interned at Harvard's Collis P. Huntington Memorial Hospital and in 1938, was an intern at University Hospitals, Cleveland, Ohio. Zamecnik was then a fellow at the Carlsberg Laboratories, Copenhagen, Denmark, but returned to work with Max Bergmann (1886-1944) at the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research, New York, New York, after the 1940 Nazi invasion of Denmark. He held a teaching position at Harvard Medical School during the war, and then headed the Collis P. Huntington Laboratory at the Massachusetts General Hospital focusing on the mechanisms of protein synthesis. In 1956, Zamecnik became the Collis P. Huntington Professor of Oncologic Medicine at Harvard Medical School, and continued his research at Massachusetts General Hospital until his transition to Professor Emeritus in 1979. At that time, he moved his research laboratory to the Worcester Foundation for Biomedical Research, Worcester, Massachusetts, an institution led by his former Harvard colleague Dr. Mahlon Hoagland (1921-2009), where Zamecnik remained until 1997 when that organization became part of the University of Massachusetts. Zamecnik then returned to Massachusetts General Hospital's Cancer Center as a Senior Scientist, where he worked until weeks prior to his death in 2009. He was also a co-founder of Hybridon, Inc., Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1990 to work on the development of antisense drugs; this company merged with Idera Pharmaceuticals, Inc. in 2004. In 2006, he founded ZATA Pharmaceuticals, Inc. with collaborator David Tabatadze, in Worcester, Massachusetts, and worked with this company until his death in 2009.
    Zamecnik is known for his work on protein synthesis and the discovery of transfer RNA, as well as the discovery of antisense RNAs and exploration of their therapeutic potential. During his early career, he was able to show the incorporation of C14 amino acid into the protein in rat liver slices, which led him to develop a cell-free system with Nancy L. Bucher (1913-) in order to dissect the intermediary events. In 1956, Zamecnik worked with Mahlon B. Hoagland and Mary Louise Stephenson (1921-2009) to show that adenosine 5'-triphosphate (ATP) was required for protein synthesis via the formation of amino acid adenylates. While carrying out these experiments, Zamecnik noted that ribosomes were the site of protein assembly, which led to the discovery of a small soluble molecular RNA, first called soluble RNA (sRNA) and later transfer RNA (tRNA). Zamecnik then created the cell-free system in E. coli, which led to further research and discoveries regarding the genetic code. In 1978, while working on the structure of the Rous sarcoma virus, he showed that it was possible to create a short chain of nucleotides, or a synthetic antisense chain, that would bind to the complementary nucleotide sequence of the messenger RNA (mRNA) strand. He was successful in using antisense oligonucleotides to block the replication, transcription, and translation of Rous sarcoma virus in chicken fibroblasts, from which a new chemotherapeutic concept was born. Later in his career, Zamecnik and his coworkers used antisense inhibition in in vitro systems to interfere with the growth of the influenza virus, HIV, f. malaria and M. tuberculosis. He was the first to publish evidence for the existence of microRNA, and showed that the insertion of oligonucleotides by transhybridization could correct the cystic fibrosis gene mutation and that antisense oligonucleotides could inhibit cell wall synthesis.
    Throughout his career, Paul Zamecnik was an active professor and administrator at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital. He received several awards for his research efforts, including an honorary doctorate from Columbia University, New York, New York (1971), the National Medal of Science (1991), and the Albert Lasker Award for Special Achievement in the Medical Sciences (1996). Zamecnik published many scientific journal articles on the topics of his research, working both alone and in collaboration with peers and colleagues to produce these publications.
    Zamecnik married Mary Connor in 1936, and they were married for 69 years, during which she worked alongside him in the laboratories at Massachusetts General Hospital and the Worcester Foundation for Biomedical Research. They had two daughters, Karen Zamecnik Pierson and Elizabeth Coakley, and one son, John Zamecnik. Mary Connor Zamecnik died in 2005. Paul Charles Zamecnik died on 27 October 2009 in Boston.

    Resources about Paul Charles Zamecnik,1912-2009

    Series and Subseries in the Collection

    Scope and Content

    The Paul Charles Zamecnik papers, 1910-2011 (inclusive), 1931-2009 (bulk) are the product of Zamecnik's research, writing, publishing, teaching, administrative, and professional activities throughout his career. The materials results from work accomplished while working at Harvard Medical School, the Collis P. Huntington Memorial Hospital, Massachusetts General Hospital, the Worcester Foundation for Experimental Biology, Hybridon, Inc., and ZATA Pharmaceuticals, Inc., as well as a brief time working at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. The papers are arranged in seven series: I. Research Records, 1931-2009; II. Correspondence, 1931-2011; III. Writings and Publications, 1935-2010; IV. Professional Activities Records, 1932-2010; V. Harvard Medical School Records, 1955-1990; VI. Massachusetts General Hospital Records, 1942-2009; and VII. Photographs and Slides, 1934-2008.
    Research records (Series I) constitute the bulk of the collection. These consist of raw and analyzed data, research summaries, research protocols and experiment procedures, reference files, collected publications used in research development and processes, grant applications and materials, and accompanying correspondence, and notes on various topics in biochemistry, genetics, and gene repair. The subjects of the research records include: protein synthesis, RNA and ribosomal structures, tRNA, microRNA, ribonucleotides, diadenosine tetraphosphate, chloroplasts, Rous sarcoma virus replication and transformation, UV radiation and cancer, plaque assays, inhibition, gradients, melanin, cell storage, ATP, and DNA modification, as well as antisense oligonucleotides and their therapeutic use in treating diseases, cancers, and drug-resistant infections, including but not limited to Hodgkin's and Huntington's diseases, HIV, HTLV, cystic fibrosis, malaria, Leishmania, prostate cancer, and celiac disease.
    Correspondence (Series II) consists of correspondence from colleagues, peers, and others pertaining to Zamecnik's various responsibilities as a research scientist, author, speak, professor, and mentor. Topics of the correspondence include manuscript and article reviews and recommendations for former employees and students; invitations to attend conferences and give speeches as well as to co-author papers; meeting minutes; prize announcements; research and scientific inquiries; requests for reprints; and related scientific journal reprints and notes.
    Writings and publications (Series III) include materials related to Zamecnik's role as a researcher and writer of scientific publications, both as sole author and in collaboration with peers and colleagues, including reprints of published scientific articles, manuscript drafts at various stages of writing and editing, as well as related research data, notes, reprinted scientific journal articles, and correspondence with co-authors, peers, colleagues, and editors. Subjects include: enzymatic histochemistry, protein synthesis and nucleic acid, RNA and transfer RNA more specifically, diadenosine tetraphosphate, tyrosinase, the discovery of antisense oligonucleotides, and the discovery of microRNA, as well as antisense oligonucleotides and their therapeutic use.
    Professional activities records (Series IV) reflect Paul Charles Zamecnik's activities beyond his work at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital as a research scientist, consultant, administrator, speaker, and patent-holder. The records include patents and patent-related materials, including applications, correspondence, and disputes, as well as the administration, management, and research carried out by the corporate entities with which Zamecnik was associated: Hybridon, Inc., the Worcester Foundation for Experimental Biology, Collaborative Research, Inc. (now Genome Therapeutics Corporation), and ZATA Pharmaceuticals. Additional materials include records from symposia, conferences, lectures, and annual meetings, and other external professional activities.
    Harvard Medical School records (Series V) consist of records from Paul Charles Zamecnik's career as an instructor and later as the Collis P. Huntington Professor of Oncologic Medicine at Harvard Medical School, including committee minutes, teaching records, administrative and human resources records, curriculum development, symposia and other events, and the Warren Prize, as well as related correspondence.
    Massachusetts General Hospital records (Series VI) include committee minutes, memoranda, and materials relating to curriculum development, faculty and staff, funding and budgets, awards and celebrations, lectures and events, and related correspondence, as well as annual reports and materials from the Collis P. Huntington Memorial Hospital and later the Huntington Laboratory.
    Slides and photographs (Series VII) consist of images from experiments, related to teaching and presentations, as well as images relating to further professional activities. Some images are from Zamecnik's personal and professional travel.
    Throughout the papers, the abbreviation "PZ" was used to denote Paul Charles Zamecnik, and AP4A is the abbreviation for diadenosine tetraphosphate, common throughout his research and writings. He also used SRNA or sRNA to refer to transfer RNA (tRNA) on some folders, and spelled Leishmania "Leischmania" and celiac "ciliac." These misspellings have been corrected where they appear in this finding aid, but original folder titles including spelling variations were maintained on the physical folders. In some cases, files were received from the donor with flags noting information about the files' contents; these notes have been recorded in the file inventory below where applicable.

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