Professor Hashim M. Al-Hashimi was Named a James B. Duke Professor of Biochemistry

Nine members of the School of Medicine faculty were named to endowed professorships by Duke University on April 30, 2015.

Awards such as these are among the most prestigious faculty appointments at Duke. They recognize the recipients’ outstanding achievements and honor Duke Medicine’s legacy – beginning with its founding benefactor, James B. Duke, one of the great industrialists and philanthropists of the 20th century – as a health care, research and medical education enterprise second to none, dedicated to creating a better tomorrow.

 The awards would not have been possible without the generosity of donors who have invested in the mission of Duke Medicine and the patients for whom it provides care.

Hashim Al-Hashimi is a professor in the Department of Biochemistry with a secondary appointment as professor in the Department of Chemistry. He also serves as director for Duke’s Center for RNA Biology.

An acknowledged world-leader in the vast field of nucleic acid structure, function and dynamics, Al-Hashimi’s research focuses on the development and application of NMR and computational methods to visualize dynamic biological processes at the atomic level within living cells and to develop a fundamental biophysical understanding to aid the design of therapeutics.

His research has helped catalyze a paradigm shift in the structural biology of nucleic acids, moving the field away from static representations of DNA and RNA and toward a detailed dynamic description that captures how these molecules change shape to carry out essential life processes. His studies have redefined the DNA double helix by showing that Watson-Crick base pairs constantly morph into Hoogsteen base pairs, potentially defining a new layer of genetic information. His group also visualized “conformational selection” of RNA by ligands and used this to develop new technologies for the discovery of RNA-targeting small molecule therapeutics.

Al-Hashimi received his doctorate in Biophysical Chemistry from Yale University for research on the development of residual dipolar coupling NMR methods to study the structure and dynamics of proteins. He spent 11 years at the University of Michigan as an assistant professor, associate professor, Robert L Kuczkowski Professor, and J. Lawrence Oncley Collegiate Professor of Chemistry and Biophysics in the Department of Chemistry and Biophysics Research Division before joining Duke in January 2014.