Jim Dahlberg on Ideas and Experiments Leading to the Discovery of Reverse Transcriptase
  Jim Dahlberg     Biography    
Recorded: 04 Jun 2001

Well, you mean, back then? Sort of like always doing what was in front of me. For example, looking at the small RNAs, we were just interested in how do you separate RNAs from each other. At the time polychrilimide gels were fairly new. So we just said, lets try gels and do a two-dimensional gel analysis, yeah, look it works! And we can characterize those RNAs. And then once we had the RNAs separated, then we could say, well let’s look at a difference source and that’s where we got into the tumor virus business. And then once you have the RNAs, you say, purified, you say what do they do? And there was a clear need to determine if any of these might function with reverse transcriptase since obviously from a number of other people’s work it was known that DNA synthesis requires a primer so one of these molecules was likely to be a primer and so it was with that in mind that I started to collaborating with Mike Bishop. I think that collaboration just came from the fact that Mike invited me to come out and give a seminar. And I was just talking with him and people in his lab and we sort of generated this idea of—Mike was much more into doing more of the physiology of the virus and that sort of thing, so John Taylor (??), I think was the main person in Mike’s lab, he was a post doc. Three or four people working together and one of my graduate students. It was kind of, we had the tools, we have a question, lets put the two together and take it from there. So its not as if I really set out to do some of these things, it just seemed pretty obvious at the time.

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.