Biographical Sketch: James A. Spudich, Ph.D.

1999 Stetten Lecture

The ability to generate force and movement is central to many of the basic functions of cells, including cell division, differentiation, and development. Within cells, proteins called molecular motors generate mechanical force and movement by harnessing the energy of ATP.

For nearly 30 years, Dr. James A. Spudich has studied, at a molecular level, how the protein motor myosin drives cell motility, cytokinesis, and muscle contraction. His studies of the slime mold Dictyostelium provided genetic proof that myosin is required for cell morphogenesis and cytokinesis. To study mammalian muscle contraction, he developed in vitro assays for ATP-dependent movement of purified myosin on actin filaments. He is able to observe the interaction of individual molecules of actin and myosin using an optical tweezer (laser trap) technique developed in collaboration with Nobel laureate Steven Chu.

Dr. Spudich is a professor of biochemistry and developmental biology at Stanford University School of Medicine. He has been a member of the Stanford faculty for 22 years, and during that time served as chairman in two different departments (cell biology, now called structural biology, and biochemistry). Previously, he served for 6 years on the faculty of the University of California, San Francisco.

Dr. Spudich earned his B.S. in chemistry from the University of Illinois and his Ph.D. in biochemistry from Stanford University. He did postdoctoral work at Stanford and then at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology at Cambridge University.

In 1987, he was appointed the Douglass M. and Nola Leishman Professor of Cardiovascular Disease, an endowed professorship at Stanford that recognizes the potential importance of cell movement studies in understanding cardiovascular disease.

Dr. Spudich has published more than 180 articles in scientific journals and has served as editor on a number of these journals. He is currently associate editor of Molecular Biology of the Cell, and he has edited the Annual Review of Cell and Developmental Biology since its inception in 1994.

He is a member of several scientific societies and served as the president of the American Society for Cell Biology in 1989. He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1991 and to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1997.

Most recently, he was appointed to lead Stanford's new Bio-X interdisciplinary initiative, which is designed to "foster the coming together of leading-edge research in basic, applied, and clinical sciences to enable tomorrow's discoveries and technological advances across the full spectrum from molecules to organisms."

NIGMS has supported his work since 1977 and has provided him with a MERIT Award since 1991.