Paul Berg


Paul Berg
(1926)

US molecular biologist. In 1972, using gene-splicing techniques developed by others, Berg spliced and combined into a single hybrid the DNA from an animal tumour virus (SV40) and the DNA from a bacterial virus. For his work on recombinant DNA, he shared the 1980 Nobel Prize for Chemistry.
Berg was born in New York and educated at Pennsylvania State University and Case Western Reserve University.

After graduating from Pennsylvania State College in 1948 and taking a doctorate from Western Reserve University in 1952, Berg pursued further studies at the Institute of Cytophysiology in Copenhagen and at Washington University in St. Louis, where he remained as assistant professor of microbiology until 1959. In 1956 Berg identified an RNA molecule (later known as a transfer RNA) that is specific to the amino acid methionine. He then perfected a method for making bacteria accept genes from other bacteria. This genetic engineering can be extremely useful for creating strains of bacteria to manufacture specific substances, such as interferon. But there are also dangers: a new, highly virulent pathogenic microorganism might accidentally be created, for example. Berg has therefore advocated restrictions on genetic engineering research.
From 1959 he was associated with the medical school of Stanford University, serving as chairman of the biochemistry department in 1969-74 and becoming Willson professor (1970) and director of the Beckman Center for Molecular and Genetic Medicine (1985).

 


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