Jim Dahlberg on 1974 Cold Spring Harbor Symposium on Tumor Viruses: Collaboration with David Baltimore
  Jim Dahlberg     Biography    
Recorded: 04 Jun 2001

Then at the ’74 symposium, I was able to talk about the identification of the primer for the reverse transcriptase and these tumor viruses. And at that time I think David Baltimore [Dr. David Baltimore won the 1975 Nobel Prize in Medicine or Physiology with co-recipients Dr. Renato Dulbeco and Dr. Howard Temin for their discoveries about the interaction between tumor viruses and the genetic materials of the cell] was at the same symposium. And David and I started talking in the lunch line about other viruses and some experiments where we could; I guess the question was how does the reverse transcriptase know to use this particular molecule, this tRNA as a primer? And we decided to see whether the RT would actually bind to it. But tRNA is selected from a mixture of RNAs. And so David and I started to collaborate where people in our labs as well. We had a lot of fun. We collaborated for about two or three years, sending samples back and forth between Boston and Madison. And often times we’d be sending a foam box by, we didn’t have Fed Ex at that time, but there was some way we would send these foam boxes from one place to the other. And this would never be allowed now. We, of course, had dry ice and there were no restrictions at the time about putting dry ice and sending that. And you know there’d be a little tube with some sample in it in this big foam box with dry ice in it and that’s a big waste. So we’d stick University of Wisconsin ice cream into the foam boxes as well, and so we kept David’s lab well supplied with terrific ice cream. Once they sent us a sample and they put a couple of lobsters in it. (laughter) But they didn’t survive the trip too well. So that was pretty much the early days and getting into this. It’s interesting because nowadays my students and post docs have no ideas that this was, that I discovered the primer for reverse transcriptase for example. Or, you know, that we had done the sequencing early on for that stuff. They know me probably from the last five years. Sort of what have you done recently? Which is maybe the way it should be.

Jim Dahlberg received his BA 1962, Haverford College, Pennsyvlania, completed his PhD 1966, University of Chicago. Dr. Dahlberg was a Postdoctoral Fellow from 1966-68 in the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge under the supervision of two-times Nobelist, Dr. Frederick Sanger. He also did worked in the 1968-69, Universite de Geneve under Dr. Richard Epstein.

Dr. Dahlberg is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, 1996, and a Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiologists (1997) During his career he has been the recipient of many awards including Eli Lilly Award for Biological Chemistry, 1974; H.I. Romnes Faculty Research Fellowship, 1976; Philips Visitor, 1977; Josiah Macy, Jr. Faculty Scholar Award, 1979-80; Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science, 1982; Frederick Sanger Professorship, 1991; American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 1993; Fellow, U.W. Hilldale Professor, 1997; Buzzati-Traverso Award for Molecular Biology, Italian National Research Council, 1998; NIH Merit Award, 1998; European Molecular Biology Organization, Foreign Associate, 1998.


He is a frequent visitor to Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory as well as a speaker at many key Cold Spring Harbor Symposia on Quantitative Biology.