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National Institute of General Medical Sciences Director Jeremy M. Berg, Ph.D., to Join Pitt Next Year as Associate Senior Vice Chancellor for Science Strategy and Planning

Breast Imaging Expert Wendie Berg, M.D., Ph.D., Will Join Pitt, Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC

PITTSBURGH, Dec. 6, 2010 – The University of Pittsburgh has named Jeremy M. Berg, Ph.D., as its first associate senior vice chancellor for science strategy and planning for the Schools of the Health Sciences, a leadership role that will foster the university’s position on the forefront of biomedical research.

Dr. Berg expects to leave his current position as director of the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) at the end of June 2011.

“I am delighted to have Dr. Berg bring his breadth of knowledge and expertise to Pittsburgh,” said Arthur S. Levine, M.D., Pitt’s senior vice chancellor for the health sciences and dean, School of Medicine. “It will help us achieve our strategic goals in many areas to have a scientist and administrator of his stature as a member of our leadership team. His contributions may be particularly important in the present challenging economic climate.”

According to an NIH press release announcing his departure, Dr. Berg spearheaded the institute’s first formal strategic plan, initiated a plan for research training and workforce development, conducted reviews of major programs, increased support for innovative research and fostered dialogue through interactive outreach efforts to the scientific community. He also led efforts, both within NIGMS and across NIH, to increase diversity in the biomedical workforce.

“Dr. Berg is a leader who asks incisive questions and applies a range of analytical approaches to guide policy and initiative development,” Dr. Levine said. “He has a strong reputation as a good listener who brings groups together to solve problems.”

At NIH, Dr. Berg conducted research in the Laboratory of Molecular Biology at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. His research focuses on molecular recognition processes and the structural and functional roles that metal ions, especially zinc, have in proteins. Dr. Berg has advanced understanding of how zinc-containing proteins bind to DNA or RNA and regulate gene activity, and contributed to the understanding of systems that target proteins to specific compartments within cells, as well as the use of sequence databases for predicting aspects of protein structure and function. He is planning to continue his research as a professor in the Department of Computational and Systems Biology in the School of Medicine.

In moving to Pittsburgh, Dr. Berg is supporting the professional aspirations of his wife, Wendie A. Berg, M.D., Ph.D., an influential imaging expert who led a major clinical trial investigating the roles of ultrasound and MRI as adjuncts to mammography in breast cancer screening. She will join the Department of Radiology, School of Medicine, as a professor in March 2011.

“This joint recruitment began with an effort to bring Wendie Berg to our department,” said chair Kyongtae “Ty” Bae, M.D., Ph.D. “Her research has led to new avenues for breast cancer screening and diagnosis.”

Jules Sumkin, D.O., chief of radiology at Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC, noted that Dr. Berg led a large clinical trial that showed positron emission mammography, or PEM, could reduce needless biopsies compared to MRI in women with newly diagnosed cancer because of its ability to better distinguish malignant from benign breast masses.

“That project, as well as Dr. Berg’s important work leading a multicenter trial assessing the impact of adding annual ultrasound to mammography screening, has improved our care of women, particularly those at increased risk for breast cancer,” said Dr. Sumkin.

“Wendie was recruited by many institutions around the country, and the University of Pittsburgh offered tremendous opportunities for each of us,” said her husband.

As NIGMS director, Dr. Jeremy Berg oversees a $2 billion budget that primarily funds basic research in cell biology, biophysics, genetics, developmental biology, pharmacology, physiology, biological chemistry, bioinformatics and computational biology. The institute also supports research in selected clinical areas including trauma and burn injury, sepsis and wound healing. Overall, NIGMS funds more than 4,500 research grants, which constitute about 10 percent of all grants funded by NIH.

“Under Jeremy’s leadership, NIGMS continued its impressive record of supporting outstanding research and training programs. He also made significant contributions to NIH by serving on key groups, including the NIH Steering Committee and the NIH Scientific Management Review Board, as well as by co-chairing the search committees for a number of important positions,” said NIH Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., adding “The University of Pittsburgh must be thrilled, as they should be!”

Prior to his appointment at NIGMS in November 2003, Dr. Berg directed the Institute for Basic Biomedical Sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, where he also served as professor and director of the department of biophysics and biophysical chemistry. Dr. Berg received B.S. and M.S. degrees in chemistry from Stanford University in 1980 and a Ph.D. in chemistry from Harvard University in 1985. He is a coauthor of more than 130 research papers and four textbooks.

His honors include the Presidential Young Investigator Award (1988-1993), American Chemical Society Award in Pure Chemistry (1993), Eli Lilly Award for Fundamental Research in Biological Chemistry (1995), Maryland Outstanding Young Scientist of the Year (1995), election as an American Association for the Advancement of Science Fellow (2007), Distinguished Service Award from the Biophysical Society (2009), Howard K. Schachman Public Service Award from the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (2011, presented in 2010) and election to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences (2010). He also received teaching awards from both medical students and graduate students and served as a founding advisor to the Johns Hopkins Postdoctoral Association.

Dr. Wendie Berg received bachelor’s and master’s degrees in science from Stanford University in 1981 and her medical degree and doctoral degree in pharmacology and molecular sciences from Johns Hopkins University in 1987. She was a faculty member at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and then professor and director of Breast Imaging at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. She currently is a study chair for the American College of Radiology Imaging Network. She has authored 70 research publications and a leading textbook on breast imaging and has been widely recognized for her outstanding research, teaching and clinical care. She received the 2007 Outstanding Contributions Award from the American College of Radiology Imaging Network and was named Most Influential Radiology Researcher in 2010 by AuntMinnie.com, the largest and most comprehensive community website for medical imaging professionals worldwide.

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