News Release

Monday, December 6, 2010

Berg to step down as National Institute of General Medical Sciences director

Jeremy M. Berg, Ph.D., director of the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) since Nov. 2003, announced today that he will step down from his post to become associate senior vice chancellor for science strategy and planning in the health sciences at the University of Pittsburgh. He will also be a faculty member in the department of computational and systems biology at the university’s School of Medicine. Berg anticipates leaving NIGMS at the end of June 2011, at which point an acting director will be named if the search for a new director is still under way.

"The time I have spent at NIH has been a highlight of my career, and I hope to be able to continue to contribute to this exceptional institution from my new position," said Berg. "When I joined NIGMS, I was fortunate to come to an outstanding organization with an extremely talented and dedicated staff. With this strong team, I have worked hard to make the institute even better, more transparent and more responsive to the needs of the scientific community."

"I had no intention of leaving NIGMS at this point, but am doing so in support of the career of my wife, a leading breast imaging clinical researcher. After a change in her situation earlier this year, she was recruited by many institutions around the country, and the University of Pittsburgh offered tremendous opportunities for each of us," Berg added.

As NIGMS director, Berg oversees a $2 billion budget that primarily funds basic research in cell biology, biophysics, genetics, developmental biology, pharmacology, physiology, biological chemistry, bioinformatics and computational biology. The institute supports more than 4,500 research grants, which make up about 10 percent of all grants funded by NIH. NIGMS also funds a substantial amount of research training and programs designed to increase the diversity of the biomedical and behavioral research workforce.

During Berg's tenure, NIGMS issued its first formal strategic plan and embarked on a strategic plan for research training that is due to be completed in early 2011. He also launched assessments of large-scale and other programs, increased support for new investigators and for highly innovative research, and spearheaded dialogue with the scientific community through the NIGMS Feedback Loop blog and other interactive outreach efforts.

"Under Jeremy’s leadership, NIGMS continued its impressive record of supporting outstanding research and training programs. He also made significant contributions to NIH by serving on key groups, including the NIH Steering Committee and the NIH Scientific Management Review Board, as well as by co-chairing the search committees for a number of important positions," said NIH Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D. "Beyond that, Jeremy co-chaired the NIH Peer Review Advisory Committee and a major effort to enhance the NIH peer review system, and he led the NIH Director's Pioneer Award and New Innovator Award programs and trans-NIH initiatives in structural biology, bioinformatics and computational biology, women in scientific careers, and basic behavioral and social science research. He has been a leader who is always willing to roll up his sleeves and pitch in. The University of Pittsburgh must be thrilled, as they should be!" Collins said.

Prior to his appointment at NIGMS, Berg directed the Institute for Basic Biomedical Sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, where he also served as professor and director of the department of biophysics and biophysical chemistry.

At NIH, Berg continued his research in the Laboratory of Molecular Biology at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. His research focuses on molecular recognition processes and the structural and functional roles that metal ions, especially zinc, have in proteins. Berg has advanced understanding of how zinc-containing proteins bind to 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. Berg has also made contributions to the understanding of systems that target proteins to specific compartments within cells, such as peroxisomes, and to the use of sequence databases for predicting aspects of protein structure and function.

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. He is a coauthor of more than 130 research papers and four textbooks.

His honors include the Presidential Young Investigator Award (1988-1993), American Chemical Society Award in Pure Chemistry (1993), Eli Lilly Award for Fundamental Research in Biological Chemistry (1995), Maryland Outstanding Young Scientist of the Year (1995), election as an American Association for the Advancement of Science Fellow (2007), Distinguished Service Award from the Biophysical Society (2009), Howard K. Schachman Public Service Award from the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (2011, presented in 2010) and election to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies (2010). He also received teaching awards from both medical students and graduate students and served as a founding advisor to the Johns Hopkins Postdoctoral Association.

To arrange an interview with NIGMS Director Jeremy M. Berg, Ph.D., contact the NIGMS Office of Communications and Public Liaison at 301-496-7301 or For more information about Berg, including a high-resolution photo, go to To see the Institute’s strategic plan, go to To read Berg’s NIGMS Feedback Loop blog messages, see

NIGMS is a part of NIH that supports basic research to increase our understanding of life processes and lay the foundation for advances in disease diagnosis, treatment and prevention. For more information on the Institute’s research and training programs, see

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation's medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit

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