Paul Berg

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Paul Berg (born June 30, 1926 in Brooklyn, New York, U.S.) is an American biochemist and professor emeritus at Stanford University. He graduated from Abraham Lincoln High School in 1943, received his B.S. in biochemistry from Penn State University in 1948 and Ph.D. in biochemistry from Case Western Reserve University in 1952. In 1980 he shared half of the Nobel Prize for Chemistry with the team of Walter Gilbert and Frederick Sanger. All three were recognized for their important contributions to basic research in nucleic acids. His studies as a postgraduate involved the use of radioisotope tracers in intermediary metabolism. This resulted in the understanding of how foodstuffs are converted to cellular materials, through the use of isotopic carbons or heavy nitrogen atoms. Paul Berg's doctorate paper is now known as the conversion of formic acid, formaldehyde and methanol to fully reduced states of methyl groups in methionine. He was also one of the first to demonstrate that folic Acid and B12 cofactors had roles in the processes mentioned.

Paul's new research has ventured from metabolic biochemistry, and as a professor in Stanford University he now researches Molecular Biology and Recombinant DNA. His main goal now, is to target exogenous genes to specific loci in the genome at high frequencies. Other studies, involving the HIV-1 virus, are being conducted by his research team. The HIV-1 virus induces an immunodeficiency disease that infects T-helper cells.

Prof. Berg is a member of the Board of Sponsors of The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists [1]. He was also an organizer of the Asilomar conference on recombinant DNA in 1975. The previous year, Berg and other scientists had called for a voluntary moratorium on certain recombinant DNA research until they could evaluate the risks. That influential conference did evaluate the potential hazards and set guidelines for biotechnology research. It can be seen as an early application of the precautionary principle.

Berg was also awarded the National Medal of Science in 1983, by Ronald Reagan.

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