Rice Institute for Biomedical Research
Department of Molecular Biosciences
Dr. Richard I. Morimoto is the Bill and Gayle Cook Professor of Biology and Director of the Rice Institute for Biomedical Research at Northwestern University.
He earned his B.S. from the University of Illinois at Chicago, subsequently received a Ph.D. in Biology at the laboratory of Professor Murray Rabinowitz, University of Chicago in 1978. He then conducted his postdoctoral research in the laboratory of Professor Matthew Meselson while also working as a Tutor in Biochemical Sciences at Harvard University in Cambridge, MA. In 1982, Morimoto joined the faculty of the Department of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, and Cell Biology at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL. He has formerly served as the Chair of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, and Cell Biology, the Dean of The Graduate School, and the Associate Provost of Graduate Education at Northwestern. He frequently gives talks at universities and symposia throughout the world, and has been a Visiting Professor at Åbo Akademi University in Finland, Beijing University, École Normale Supérieure in Paris, Kyoto University, Kyoto Sangyo University, Osaka University, University of Rome, and Technion University in Israel. He is a founder of the biotech company Proteostasis Therapeutics, Inc in Cambridge MA, which develops small molecule therapeutics to treat diseases related to protein homeostasis.
Some of his honors include:
Fyodor Lynen Lecturer – German Society of Biochemistry
Commandeur – Ordre des Palmes Académiques, France
Fellow – Japan Society for the Promotion of Science
Elected Fellow – American Academy of Arts and Sciences
Elected Fellow- American Association for the Advancement of Science
National Institutes of Health MERIT Award- NIGMS, NIA
Doctor of Philosophy, Honoris Causa – Abo Akademi University, Turku, Finland
Current Lab Members
Research Assistant Professor
My research focuses on understanding the underlying mechanisms in neurodegenerative diseases with the goal to identify effective strategies for treatment. My current project in the Morimoto lab aims to uncover the spatio-temporal dynamics of proteostasis capacity in healthy aging and in protein conformational diseases using C. elegans as a model system.
As the C. elegans technician for the Morimoto lab, I perform assays such as lifespan, heat shock, and RNAi genetic screens. I train new members of the lab in C. elegans techniques and prepare the published strains you request.
Majoring in: Biology and Global Health Studies
From: Delray Beach, Florida
As an undergraduate researcher in the Morimoto lab, I am implementing genetically-encoded fluorescent biosensors to study proteostasis in human cells.
I am involved on projects understanding the regulation of protein homeostasis in the context of age-associated protein-misfolding diseases. Our work aims to establish a cellular model for Alzheimer’s disease and taupothies using patient-derived neurons by direct neuronal reprogramming of dermal fibroblasts. I am also involved in small molecule screens to identify regulators of the proteostasis network that enhance the protein folding cellular environment to prevent conformational diseases. As laboratory manager I also oversee laboratory stocks and reagent requests.
Graduate Student, NUIN
I am a PhD candidate in the Morimoto and Budinger/Misharin laboratories with a keen interest in using big-data approaches to better understand alterations to proteostasis in in aging and disease. I am currently studying alterations in microglial proteostasis in the mammalian CNS that may inform susceptibility to dementia in the elderly after infection. I focus heavily on bulk- and single-cell sequencing techniques, but I have now begun to explore whole-brain imaging after tissue clearing and behavioral analysis.
Majoring in: Biology and Math
From: Ho-Ho-Kus, New Jersey
As an undergraduate researcher in the Morimoto lab, I will be exploring the specificity of the proteostatic response by working with temperature-sensitive strains of C. elegans, where I will compare the movement and chaperone production of the strains to normal N2 worms.
Majoring in Biological Sciences
From: Seattle, WA
My project focuses on cell nonautonomous neuroendocrine signaling and its effect on proteostasis in C. elegans. Specifically, I am investigating the tissue-specificity of neurotransmitter activation of the heat shock response.
I will be working on C. elegans research projects in the lab. My future goal is to pursue a Ph.D. in Marine Biology after my time in Morimoto Lab.
Bill and Gayle Cook Professor of Biology
Business Administrator II
I am the Core Administrator for the 5-year, 7-lab, 6-institution Program Project Grant, "Proteostasis in Aging and Neurodegenerative Disease" awarded by the National Institute on Aging. I also maintain the Proteostasis Consortium website and seminar series as well as the Morimoto Lab website. In addition, each year, I work with co-chairs to plan the annual Midwest Stress and Molecular Chaperone Meeting (MWSM) as well as other departmental and PPG meetings and retreats. When I'm not working on all of the above, I also manage the lab's other grants, finances, and general administration.
Alejandro (Alex) Rodriguez Gama
My research aims to interrogate how stress response against exogenous stimuli shapes proteostasis and contributes to aging. I will implement tools to control at the spatiotemporal resolution the activation of stress responses in different tissues in C. elegans to measure their impact on proteostasis and aging.
Postdoctoral Fellow (with Luis Amaral lab in Chemical and Biological Engineering)
Thomas is intrigued by the historical and cultural biases that have shaped genetic research. He uses data-scientific approaches to contrast an understanding of these biases with an unbiased assessment of individual genes derived from multi-omic studies. His goal is to identify overlooked factors contributing to some pressing, and already intensely researched, biological questions. He currently applies these insights to study novel aspects of aging and pneumonia, and hopes that his approach will also identify novel aspects of protein homeostasis.
My research goal is to uncover new protein quality control mechanisms and understand how their failure contributes to protein conformational diseases including neurodegenerative diseases. I do this by using cutting-edge proteomics at a massive scale, biochemistry, and genetics to manipulate specific pathways in C. elegans.
Research Assistant Professor
I use a single-cell analysis approach to study the temporal and molecular details of proteostasis collapse in cell models of aging and protein aggregation. Currently, I am focusing on studying tau proteotoxicity using induced neurons obtained through direct neuronal reprogramming of patient-derived dermal fibroblasts. With help from Sue and undergraduate students, we are exploring small-molecule strategies to restore proteostasis in cell model systems of protein aggregation.
Majors: Biology and Psychology
Minor: Global Health Studies
From: Chicago, IL
My project focuses on designing protein biosensors with metastable properties for measuring proteostasis capacity and decline in the model organism C. elegans. The protein dihydrofolate reductase (DHFR) is a well-studied monomeric protein that I use to introduce destabilizing point mutations. My goal is to create a collection of fluorescent DHFR protein biosensors with varying sensitivity and usage in measuring the proteostasis network.
Majoring in: Biology
Minor: Global Health Studies and Data Science
From: Ningbo, China
My current project focuses on purifying wild type Tau protein and various types of mutant Tau proteins. By assessing the cell permeability, subcellular localization, and stability of Tau, I hope to study its involvement in cellular activities and how it causes neurodegenerative diseases.
Meet Our Pets
Person= Rogan Grant
Ellora (Ellie) is a lab/hound mix adopted by Rogan from PAWS Chicago in 2021. Despite spending her early life wandering the streets of Malvern, Arkansas, she has adapted well to city life. She now enjoys trips to the Green Mill, swimming in Lake Michigan, and soliciting treats from Lakeview shop-owners.
To maintain her connection with her origins, however, she does still enjoy the occasional scrap of street trash.
Ellie would like to use this opportunity to remind the reader that diversity is essential to any successful research program.
Person= Rick Morimoto
Visitors to the Morimoto Lab will likely see the tank of fish in the lab or the tank in Rick's office. These fish are the noble descendants of generations of Morimoto fish, brought from Rick's home. Their love is easily bought with a sprinkle of dry fish flakes and no one in the lab is exactly sure how many there are in total.
Sgt. Pepper Kitty Soft Paws (SPKSP)
Person= Rebecca Phend
Sgt. Pepper Kitty Soft Paws was born in the bath tub of one of Rebecca's student workers at Kellogg in the summer of 2014. He was originally named "Pepper", but Rebecca's daughter wanted to name him "Kitty Soft Paws". Rebecca wanted to upgrade him to "Sgt. Pepper" His current name was born of the compromise.
SPKSP spends his time lounging in windows, chirping at squirrels, and has refused to learn to walk on a leash. He enjoys licking plastic bags and wine glasses and loves to greet new people at the door with loud meows and attempts to jump into their arms.
Person= Rebecca Phend
Zelda was adopted in Sept. 2021 from a group that busses dogs from overpopulated kill shelters in Alabama up to Chicago where eager adopters await. She's named after fellow Alabaman and notable figure of the '20s, Zelda Fitzgerald.
No doggy DNA tests have been run, but it has been suggested that she's a mix of terrier and basset hound. Zelda has been nicknamed "The Tank" and also "The Sausage Queen of Evanston"
She enjoys long walks, sleeping on the back of the couch, and always places a toy in her food bowl when she's finished her meal.