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National Institute of
General Medical Sciences (NIGMS)

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, August 27, 2003


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Jeremy M. Berg, Ph.D., Named New Director of NIH's National Institute of General Medical Sciences

Bethesda, Maryland — National Institutes of Health Director Elias A. Zerhouni, M.D., today announced the appointment of Jeremy M. Berg, Ph.D., as the new director of the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS). Dr. Berg is currently director of the Institute for Basic Biomedical Sciences and professor and director of the Department of Biophysics and Biophysical Chemistry at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore. He is also director of the Markey Center for Macromolecular Structure and Function and co-director of the W.M. Keck Center for the Rational Design of Biologically Active Molecules, both of which are at Johns Hopkins. Dr. Berg is expected to begin his NIGMS appointment in early November.

"Dr. Berg is one of the nation’s most distinguished basic scientists," Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson said. "He has the strong scientific skills and vision to keep the institute’s research and training at the cutting edge of established and promising new areas of science."

"Dr. Berg is an outstanding scientist whose skills are ideal for leading the NIH component that supports basic biomedical research," added Dr. Zerhouni. "Over the past few years, NIGMS has recognized the new directions in which science is moving and has created innovative programs in collaborative research, structural genomics, pharmacogenetics and complex biological systems. These and other NIGMS activities recognize the increasingly interdisciplinary nature of research today and truly feed the spring of science."

Dr. Berg will replace Judith Greenberg, Ph.D., who became acting director of NIGMS in May 2002 following the departure of Marvin Cassman, Ph.D. Dr. Cassman had led the institute since 1993.

As NIGMS director, Dr. Berg will oversee a $1.8 billion budget that funds basic research in the areas of cell biology, biophysics, genetics, developmental biology, pharmacology, physiology, biological chemistry, bioinformatics and computational biology. NIGMS currently supports more than 4,400 research grants — about 10 percent of the grants funded by NIH as a whole. NIGMS also supports a substantial amount of research training as well as programs designed to increase the number of minority biomedical scientists.

"I am especially delighted to come to NIGMS at this exciting time in biomedical research," said Dr. Berg. "NIGMS just commemorated its 40th anniversary with the theme of ‘molecules to medicines,’ a most fitting description of the institute’s role in providing the foundation for medical advances. I look forward to the challenges that lie ahead in developing programs that take advantage of new opportunities in science and that respond to the changing needs of the scientific community."

Dr. Berg’s research focuses on the structural and functional roles that metal ions, especially zinc, have in proteins. He has made major contributions to understanding how zinc-containing proteins bind to the genetic material DNA or RNA and regulate gene activity. His work, and that of others in the field, has led to the design of metal-containing proteins that control the activity of specific genes. These tailored proteins are valuable tools for basic research on gene function, and such proteins could one day have medical applications in regulating genes involved in diseases, as well. Dr. Berg has also made contributions to our understanding of systems that target proteins to specific compartments within cells and to the use of sequence databases for predicting aspects of protein structure and function.

Dr. Berg has been a faculty member at Johns Hopkins since 1986. Immediately before his faculty appointment, he was a postdoctoral fellow in biophysics at Hopkins. Dr. Berg received B.S. and M.S. degrees in chemistry from Stanford University in 1980 and a Ph.D. in chemistry from Harvard University in 1985.

Dr. Berg is a coauthor of more than 100 research papers and three textbooks, Principles of Bioinorganic Chemistry, Biochemistry (5th Edition) and A Clinical Companion to Accompany Biochemistry. He also serves on the editorial boards of the journals Proteins: Structure, Function, and Genetics; Chemistry and Biology; and Current Opinion in Chemical Biology.

His honors include a Presidential Young Investigator Award (1988-1993), the American Chemical Society Award in Pure Chemistry (1993), the Eli Lilly Award for Fundamental Research in Biological Chemistry (1995) and the Maryland Outstanding Young Scientist of the Year (1995). He has also received teaching awards from both medical students and graduate students and has served as an advisor to the Johns Hopkins Postdoctoral Association since its founding.

NIGMS has supported Dr. Berg’s research since 1986.

NIGMS is one of the 27 components of the National Institutes of Health, the premier federal agency for biomedical research. More information on NIGMS can be found at http://www.nigms.nih.gov.


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