Andrew Fire received a B.A. in mathematics from the University of California, Berkeley, and a Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He conducted postdoctoral research at the Medical Research Council Laboratory in Cambridge, England. From 1986 to 2003, Fire was on the staff of the Carnegie Institution of Washington’s Department of Embryology in Baltimore, Maryland. During his time in Baltimore, he also assumed the position of Adjunct Professor of Biology at Johns Hopkins University. In 2003, he joined the faculty of the Stanford University School of Medicine. Fire was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2006 along with Craig Mello “for their discovery of RNA interference—gene silencing by double-stranded RNA.”
The Fire lab studies the mechanisms by which cells and organisms respond to genetic change. The genetic landscape faced by a living cell is constantly changing. Developmental transitions, environmental shifts and pathogenic invasions lend a dynamic character to both the genome and its activity pattern. Fire’s group explores a variety of natural mechanisms that are utilized by cells adapting to genetic change. These include mechanisms activated during normal development and systems for detecting and responding to foreign or unwanted genetic activity. At the root of these studies are questions of how a cell can distinguish “self ” versus “nonself ” and “wanted” versus “unwanted” gene expression.