ASBMB Past Presidents

1988 – Robert T. Schimke

(b. 1932)



Robert Tod Schimke, President of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology in 1988, was born in Spokane, Washington. He received both his undergraduate degree (1954) and his M.D. (1958) from Stanford University. He then interned at Massachusetts General Hospital until 1960 when he joined the National Institute of Arthritis and Metabolic Diseases at the National Institutes of Health. In 1966, he left the NIH to join the faculty at Stanford University, becoming associate professor of Pharmacology in 1970. He later became a member of the Department of Biological Sciences and its chairman in 1978. Schimke is currently professor emeritus of biological sciences and the American Cancer Society Research Professor, Emeritus at Stanford.

Schimke has made important contributions to at least four distinct areas of biological investigation, in some cases creating the field itself. These include protein turnover, steroid hormone control of gene expression, the relation between cell division and programmed cell death (apoptosis), and the discovery of gene amplifications as a mechanism of resistance of cells to cancer chemotherapy drugs. Schimke's work on protein turnover and gene amplification was featured as a Journal of Biological Chemistry Classic (1). He is perhaps best known for this last discovery, which remains the principal method for mass production of large quantities of biotherapeutic proteins in their natural form in mammalian cells. Schimke also acted as a scientific advisor to Amgen, Monsanto, and DuPont, and played a key role in the creation of Amgen's first blockbuster drug, erythropoietin.

Schimke was an associate editor for the Journal of Biological Chemistry from 1975 to 1981 and from 1983 to 2002, and also served on the Journal's editorial board. In recognition of his many contributions to science, he received the Boris Pregal Award from the New York Academy of Sciences (1974), the William C. Rose Award in Biochemistry from the American Nutrition Foundation (1983), the Sloan Prize from the General Motors Cancer Research Foundation (1985), and the Lila Gruber Memorial Cancer Research Award from the American Academy of Dermatology (1988). He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1976 and to the Institute of Medicine in 1983.

1. Kresge, N., Simoni, R. D., and Hill, R. L. (2007) Protein turnover and gene amplification: The work of Robert T. Schimke. J. Biol. Chem. 282 (17)