Jim Dahlberg on Establishing a Laboratory at the University of Wisconsin—Madison
  Jim Dahlberg     Biography    
Recorded: 04 Jun 2001

Well, you see, first of all when I came back, when I came to Madison, I set up the same kind of system that we had worked on with cue-beta which is invitro synthesis of RNA and analysis of the RNA sequencing. And I think the ’70 symposium was on transcription and so I talked about how we were doing the transcription of Lambda phage DNA making it into RNA and sequencing that. So it was basically a transcription from a DNA template now for we made four different RNAs that we had to separate and then we sequenced those. And then, but in the period between ’70 and ’74 I started working on reverse transcriptase because Howard Temin was a neighbor of mine in Madison and he’s also a colleague at the University. And Howard and I used to walk in together to the University. We’d just meet down at the corner and walk in. And he just got me interested in reverse transcriptase and it was a question of how do tumor viruses start making their DNA copy and I had been working with a post doc in my lab, Toshimichi Ikemura, on developing methods for looking at small RNAs. And we had determined that tumor viruses, well raux sarcoma viruses in particular had a collection of small RNAs in the varium (??) and I was just characterizing those. And it turned out that one of those RNAs was the primer for reverse transcriptase. And I showed that in a collaborative effort with Mike Bishop [Dr. J. Michael Bishop along with Dr. Harold Varmus won the Nobel Prize in Medicine or Physiology in 1989 for their discovery of the cellular origin of retroviral oncogenes] in UCSF so we had a couple of papers with Mike and his group. And it was, again it was really fun to be sort of in the forefront of those things.

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.