2024 ASBMB Election


Professor and director of the Institute for Basic Biomedical Sciences, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Department of Biophysics and Biophysical Chemistry


James Berger

Statement of interest

I serve as the director of the Institute for Basic Biomedical Sciences, or IBBS, at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. I am also a professor of biophysics and co-director of the Cancer Chemical and Structural Biology Program for the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center. I currently hold the Michael and Anne Hankin chair for biomedical research and joined the faculty at Johns Hopkins in 2013. Prior to that, I served on the faculty at the University of California, Berkeley.

As IBBS director, I oversee nine departments and 178 faculty members, who have led advancements in diverse areas such as the structure of DNA and RNA, the control of the organization and trafficking of cells and the structure and function of neurons that enable sensation and memory formation. I lead Johns Hopkins Medicine’s initiative to commit $100 million to the basic sciences departments and support people and programs focused on unraveling basic mechanisms of biology that underpin virtually every major medical breakthrough.

I study the molecular machines that control DNA replication and chromosome organization. I elucidated the structure of essential enzymes, such as DNA topoisomerases and helicases, which revealed how chemical energy is transduced into force to control DNA topology and how these machines are targeted by chemotherapeutic agents. I have trained more than 40 doctoral students and postdoctoral fellows, who have gone on to careers in academia, biotechnology and other industries. In addition, I have authored more than 160 peer-reviewed publications.

Education and training

  • B.S., Biochemistry, University of Utah, 1990
  • Ph.D., Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Harvard University, 1995
  • Postdoctoral training, Whitehead Fellow, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1995–1998

Awards and honors

  • David and Lucille Packard Fellowship for Science and Engineering, 1999
  • Pfizer Award in Enzyme Chemistry, American Chemical Society, 2006
  • ASBMB Schering Plough Research Institute Scientific Achievement Award, 2006
  • David A. Shirley Award for Outstanding Scientific Achievement, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, 2008
  • Award in Molecular Biology, National Academy of Sciences, 2011
  • Member, American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 2012
  • Fellow, National Academy of Sciences, 2013


  • Editorial board member, Journal of Molecular Biology, 2016–present
  • Editorial board member, eLife, 2017–present
  • Deputy director, Institute for Basic Biomedical Sciences, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, 2018–present