Former NIGMS Director: Biographical Sketch

Jeremy M. Berg, Ph.D.

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Jeremy M. Berg
Jeremy M. Berg
(NIH photo by Ernie Branson)
High-res image (354KB JPEG)

Jeremy M. Berg, Ph.D., became director of the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) in November 2003. He oversaw a $2 billion budget that funds basic research in the areas of cell biology, biophysics, genetics, developmental biology, pharmacology, physiology, biological chemistry, bioinformatics and computational biology. The Institute supports more than 4,500 research grants—about 10 percent of the grants funded by NIH as a whole—as well as a substantial amount of research training and programs designed to increase the diversity of the biomedical and behavioral research workforce.

Prior to his appointment as NIGMS director, Berg directed the Institute for Basic Biomedical Sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, MD, where he also served as professor and director of the department of biophysics and biophysical chemistry. In addition, he directed the Markey Center for Macromolecular Structure and Function and co-directed the W.M. Keck Center for the Rational Design of Biologically Active Molecules at the university.

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. 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.

Berg served on the faculty at Johns Hopkins from 1986-2003. Immediately before his faculty appointment, he was a postdoctoral fellow in biophysics at the university. 

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 three textbooks, Principles of Bioinorganic Chemistry, Biochemistry (5th Edition and 6th Edition) and A Clinical Companion to Accompany Biochemistry.

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), the Maryland Outstanding Young Scientist of the Year (1995), election as an American Association for the Advancement of Science Fellow (2007), the Distinguished Service Award from the Biophysical Society (2009), the Howard K. Schachman Public Service Award from the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB) (2011, presented in 2010), election to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies (2010), a Public Service Award from the American Chemical Society (2011) and election as ASBMB president (term begins in 2012). He also received teaching awards from both medical students and graduate students and served as an advisor to the Johns Hopkins Postdoctoral Association since its founding. 

NIGMS supported Berg's research from 1986-2003.