Ronald Breaker, PhD, BS

Sterling Professor of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology and Professor of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry; Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology

Departments & Organizations

Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry

Center for RNA Science and Medicine

Yale Combined Program in the Biological and Biomedical Sciences (BBS): Biochemistry, Quantitative Biology, Biophysics and Structural Biology (BQBS)

Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology

Office of Cooperative Research


Dr. Breaker is a Sterling Professor of the Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology at Yale University, is jointly appointed as a professor in the Department of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry, and is an Investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. His graduate studies with Dr. Peter Gilham at Purdue University focused on the synthesis of RNA and the catalytic properties of nucleic acids. As a postdoctoral researcher with Dr. Gerald Joyce at The Scripps Research Institute, Dr. Breaker pioneered a variety of in vitro evolution strategies to isolate novel RNA enzymes and was the first to discover catalytic DNAs or “deoxyribozymes” using this technology. Since establishing his laboratory at Yale in 1995, Dr. Breaker has continued to conduct research on the advanced functions of nucleic acids, including ribozyme reaction mechanisms, molecular switch technology, next-generation biosensors, and catalytic DNA engineering. In addition, his laboratory has established the first proofs that metabolites are directly bound by messenger RNA elements called riboswitches. Dr. Breaker’s research findings have been published in more than 220 scientific papers, book chapters, and patent applications, and his research has been funded by grants from the NIH, NSF, DARPA, the Hereditary Disease Foundation, and from several biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies. He is the recipient of fellowships from the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, and the Hellman Family Trust. In recognition of his research accomplishments at Yale, Dr. Breaker received the Arthur Greer Memorial Prize (1997), the Eli Lilly Award in Microbiology (2005), the Molecular Biology Award from the U.S. National Academy of Sciences (2006), and the Merck Award from the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (2016). Dr. Breaker was inducted into the U.S. National Academy of Sciences in 2014. He has cofounded two biotechnology companies and is a scientific advisor for industry and for various government agencies. He serves on the editorial board for the scientific journals RNA Biology, RNA, and Cell Chemical Biology.

Education & Training

PhD Purdue University, Biology/Biochemistry (1992)
BS University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point, Biology/Chemistry (1987)
Postdoctoral Fellow The Scripps Research Institute
Ph.D. Purdue University
B.S. University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point

Honors & Recognition

  • Chan LectureUC-Berkeley (2016)

  • ASBMB-Merck AwardAmerican Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (2016)

  • Distinguished Alumni AwardPurdue University (2014)

  • Leslie Orgel Memorial LectureSalk Institute (2013)

  • MemberUS National Academy of Sciences (2013)

  • Rolf Sammet ProfessorshipSanofi-Aventis (2012)

  • Arun Guthikonda Memorial AwardColumbia University (2007)

  • Molecular Biology AwardU.S. National Academy of Sciences (2006)

  • Eli Lilly AwardAmerican Society for Microbiology (2005)

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Contact Info

Ronald Breaker, PhD, BS
Mailing Address
Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology266 Whitney Avenue
P.O. Box 208103

New Haven, CT 06520-8103

Breaker Lab