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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; Chair, Dept Basic Science: Molecular Biophysics & Biochemistry

Contact Information

Ronald Breaker, PhD, BS

Mailing Address

  • Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology

    260 Whitney Avenue, P.O. Box 208103

    New Haven, CT 06511-8103

    United States



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

  • Postdoctoral Fellow
    The Scripps Research Institute (1995)
  • PhD
    Purdue University, Biology/Biochemistry (1992)
  • Ph.D.
    Purdue University (1992)
  • BS
    University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point, Biology/Chemistry (1987)
  • B.S.
    University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point (1987)

Honors & Recognition

AwardAwarding OrganizationDate
Huck Distinguished LecturerPenn State University2022
MemberAmerican Academy of Arts and Sciences2021
Sterling ProfessorYale University2017
Chan LectureUC-Berkeley2016
ASBMB-Merck AwardAmerican Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology2016
Distinguished Alumni AwardPurdue University2014
Leslie Orgel Memorial LectureSalk Institute2013
MemberUS National Academy of Sciences2013
Rolf Sammet ProfessorshipSanofi-Aventis2012
Arun Guthikonda Memorial AwardColumbia University2007
Molecular Biology AwardU.S. National Academy of Sciences2006
Eli Lilly AwardAmerican Society for Microbiology2005

Departments & Organizations