American Philosophical Society
Member History

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2. Biological Sciences[X]
201. Molecular Biology and Biochemistry[X]
61Name:  Dr. Robert Tjian
 Institution:  University of California, Berkeley; Howard Hughes Medical Institute
 Year Elected:  2009
 Class:  2. Biological Sciences
 Subdivision:  201. Molecular Biology and Biochemistry
 Residency:  Resident
 Living? :   Living
 Birth Date:  1949
Robert Tjian served as president of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in April 2009 through the end of 2016 and then returned to his lab at the University of California, Berkeley. Trained as a biochemist, he has made major contributions to the understanding of how genes work during three decades on the faculty of the University of California, Berkeley. He was named an HHMI investigator in 1987. Tjian studies the biochemical steps involved in controlling how genes are turned on and off, key steps in the process of decoding the human genome. He discovered proteins called transcription factors that bind to specific sections of DNA and play a critical role in controlling how genetic information is transcribed and translated into the thousands of biomolecules that keep cells, tissues, and organisms alive. Tjian's laboratory has illuminated the relationship between disruptions in the process of transcription and human diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and Huntington's. More recently, he has begun studying how transcription factors control the differentiation of embryonic stem cells into muscle, liver, and neurons. Tjian, 59, was born in Hong Kong, the youngest of nine children. His family fled China before the Communist Revolution and eventually settled in New Jersey. Known as a voracious consumer of scientific information and data, Tjian famously talked his way into the biochemistry laboratory of the late Daniel Koshland as a Berkeley undergraduate—even though he had never taken a single course in the subject. Tjian went on to receive a bachelor's degree in biochemistry from Berkeley in 1971 and a Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1976. After completing a postdoctoral fellowship at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory with James Watson, he joined the Berkeley faculty in 1979. At Berkeley, Tjian assumed a variety of leadership roles, including spearheading a major campus initiative to support and implement new paradigms for bioscience teaching and research. He served as the Director of the Berkeley Stem Cell Center, and the Faculty Director of the Li Ka Shing Center for Biomedical and Health Sciences. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and has received many awards honoring his scientific contributions, including the Alfred P. Sloan Prize from the General Motors Cancer Research Foundation and the Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize from Columbia University. He was named California Scientist of the Year in 1994. As president of the Institute, Tjian remains an active scientist. His small laboratory group at HHMI's Janelia Farm Research Campus is focused on the development of new approaches to image biochemical activities in single living cells. He will also maintain a research laboratory at UC Berkeley, where he is a professor of biochemistry and molecular biology. Tjian and his wife, Claudia, an attorney, have two daughters.
62Name:  Dr. Don Craig Wiley
 Institution:  Harvard & Howard Hughes Medical Institute
 Year Elected:  1996
 Class:  2. Biological Sciences
 Subdivision:  201. Molecular Biology and Biochemistry
 Residency:  Resident
 Living? :   Deceased
 Birth Date:  1944
 Death Date:  November 16, 2001
63Name:  Dr. Bernhard Witkop
 Institution:  National Institutes of Health
 Year Elected:  1999
 Class:  2. Biological Sciences
 Subdivision:  201. Molecular Biology and Biochemistry
 Residency:  Resident
 Living? :   Deceased
 Birth Date:  1917
 Death Date:  November 22, 2010
Bernhard Witkop was a distinguished organic chemist who had made major contributions to biochemistry, pharmacology, and medical sciences. His research involved major contributions to the chemistry of familiar-sounding substances or processes, such as the isolation from the Colombian tree frog of the toxin batrachotoxin, a godsend to electrophysiologists. He made important contributions to research on antiviral agents, interferon, dopamine, genetically engineered proteins and metabolic pathways. His cyanogen bromide cleavage reaction made possible the production of the first 100 Kg of engineered insulin by Eli Lilly. In Dr. Witkop's paper "Mind Over Matter" he assumes "the uneasy role of the scientist as philosopher" and presents a scholarly and profound contribution on this topic so central to most philosophers. Later in his life Dr. Witkop dedicated efforts to historical biography. He worked at the National Institutes of Health since 1987, where he is Scholar Emeritus. A native of Germany, Dr. Witkop held Ph.D. (1940) and Sc.D. (1946) degrees from the University of Munich.
64Name:  Dr. Paul C. Zamecnik
 Institution:  Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School
 Year Elected:  2006
 Class:  2. Biological Sciences
 Subdivision:  201. Molecular Biology and Biochemistry
 Residency:  Resident
 Living? :   Deceased
 Birth Date:  1912
 Death Date:  October 27, 2009
Paul Zamecnik is a senior scientist at Massachusetts General Hospital and Professor Emeritus at Harvard Medical School. He has been affiliated with both institutions for over fifty years and received his M.D. from Harvard Medical School in 1936. Dr. Zamecnik's first great scientific contribution was elucidating important aspects of the biochemistry of protein synthesis. He showed that ATP is necessary for peptide bond formation, which therefore is not a reversal of proteolysis; in the cell free system, he devised the ribosome is the site of these reactions; and tRNAs translate sequences of DNA to protein. Early, he performed RNA sequencing that showed 3'-poly A in Rous sarcoma virus RNA, and a prior sequence identical to that at the 5' end, indicating circular structure. His second greatest contribution was the conception of competitive antisense nucleotides. These blocked virus replication by inhibition of translation. He demonstrated the antisense effect with hemoglobin protein synthesizing cells showing that this depends on the ability of deoxynucleotides to enter intact cells and on Watson-Crick base pairing. He has also applied the concept to medicine, targeting the tuberculosis bacterium and the defective cystic fibrosis gene. A three-time winner of the John Collins Warren Triennial Prize, (1946, 1950, 1999) as well as the Presidential Medal of Science (1991), the Lasker Award (1995) and the Institute of Virology's Lifetime Achievement Award (2004), Dr. Zamecnik was elected to the membership of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences in 1954, the National Academy of Sciences in 1968 and the American Philosophical Society in 2006.
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