Journal News

Journal of Biological Chemistry names new editor-in-chief

Alex Toker will begin his five-year term Oct. 1
Angela Hopp
July 30, 2021

The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology announced today that Alex Toker, associate director for the Cancer Research Institute at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and professor of pathology at Harvard Medical School, will be the next editor-in-chief of the Journal of Biological Chemistry, one of the society’s three open-access, peer-reviewed journals. Toker’s five-year term will begin Oct. 1.

Toker has a long relationship with the journal. He has been a deputy editor since 2020, an associate editor since 2013 and before that was an editorial board member. He also has served as chair of the editorial advisory board for the member magazine, ASBMB Today, the society’s news magazine.

Courtesy of Nicole Homeier 
Alex Toker has served as an editorial board member, associate editor and deputy editor of the Journal of Biological Chemistry. His term as editor-in-chief begins Oct. 1.

He is an expert in the signaling mechanisms that govern cancer progression. His lab specifically focuses on the PI3K signaling pathway in breast and other cancers and the mechanisms by which the protein kinase AKT promotes tumor cell survival and growth and the metabolic reprogramming of cancer cells.

“Alex has a compelling vision for the future of the JBC,” said Toni Antalis of the University of Maryland School of Medicine, president of the ASBMB. “He was a standout candidate in our search, being a distinguished scientific leader with a strong commitment to the editorial processes and best practices that are the hallmark of the JBC. I believe the JBC will flourish in the open-access environment under his leadership and will continue to foster the dissemination of scientific advances that serve the scientific community."

Toker said he looks forward to continuing the move to open access for the JBC, exploring new approaches to manuscript submission and review, and embracing the open science movement, while maintaining the journal’s commitment to data integrity and editorial board diversity and inclusion.

“I am so very excited to be taking the helm of the JBC," Toker said. "Over the years, I have experienced the tremendous dedication of the JBC reviewing editors, the associate editors, the authors and our readership. The JBC is truly a journal that is for scientists run by scientists. I have become a fervent believer in open-access publishing and am delighted that during the past year the ASBMB and JBC leadership made the decision to move the society’s three journals to full gold open access. For a journal with the long history, back content and sheer size of the JBC, this has been an enormous and complex undertaking, one we feel was not only important but essential for the JBC community.”

Toker succeeds as editor-in-chief Lila Gierasch, a distinguished professor and former department head at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, whose five-year term ended June 30.

Lila Gierasch served as editor-in-chief from 2016 to 2021. Read our Q&A with her about her work at JBC.

Antalis, who leads the society’s governing council, said of Gierasch: “Lila took over the role of editor-in-chief in 2016 and has worked tirelessly to raise the profile and quality of the journal with the help and support of the JBC associate editors, the editorial board and the publications staff at the ASBMB.  Under her leadership, the journal has enjoyed several major achievements, including the launch of JBC Reviews, improvements in the author experience, the move to open access, and a jump in impact factor.”

Gierasch called Toker “an outstanding scholar and truly loyal to JBC.” She said: “I am confident that the journal will continue to thrive under his leadership. We have worked closely together over the past few years, and I have witnessed Alex’s vision for scientific publishing, his adherence to rigorous peer review, and his dedication to a society journal led by scientists and committed to fostering the work of scientists.”

Toker will technically take the reins from the journal’s interim editor, F. Peter Guengerich, a researcher at Vanderbilt University and longtime journal leader. Antalis expressed gratitude for Guengerich’s contributions as both deputy editor under Gierasch and as interim editor, both now and during a previous editorship change. “We have been very fortunate to have Fred at the helm of the JBC during these periods of change. Fred is an outstanding individual with an unwavering dedication to the journal and its mission,” she said.

Toker earned his bachelor’s degree from King’s College at the University of London in 1987 and his Ph.D. from the National Institute for Medical Research in London in 1991. He conducted postdoctoral work with Lewis Cantley at Harvard.

In 1995, Toker published the first of many papers in JBC. “I recall with a deep sense of pride publishing in the JBC as a postdoctoral fellow, and thereafter as a principal investigator with my own lab. I have always considered the JBC the premier journal in biochemistry and cell and molecular biology,” he said. “I recall as a postdoc in the 1990s, my adviser would pass around the weekly JBC issue, with that unmistakable green cover, having scribbled the initials of each grad student or postdoc next to each paper in the table of contents. This was our signal to read that paper!”

He continued: “The world of publishing has changed dramatically in the ensuing 25 years, but the unwavering commitment to serve as a journal for scientists, run by scientists, has remained steadfast. I am deeply indebted to Lila Gierasch for her leadership as editor-in-chief the past five years and for the many initiatives she brought to the JBC. She will be a hard act to follow.”

In 1997, Toker took a staff scientist position at the Boston Biomedical Research Institute. In 2000, he joined the faculty of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School as an assistant professor. Today he is a full professor, chief of the Division of Signal Transduction, associate director for the Cancer Research Institute and Cancer Center at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, and a member of the Ludwig Center at Harvard.

Steve Miller, the ASBMB’s executive director, said, “I’m very much looking forward to working with Alex in this new role. I have every confidence that Alex will uphold JBC’s commitment to rigorous and constructive peer review — and take its service to authors and the greater life sciences community to new heights.”

Angela Hopp

Angela Hopp is executive editor of ASBMB Today and communications director for the ASBMB.

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