“We suddenly realized that there was a new capability, the capability to cut and paste DNA — and that was a monumental new way of looking at biological experimentation.”
David Baltimore, Ph.D., is the Robert A. Millikan Professor of Biology and former President of the California Institute of Technology (Caltech).
In 1975, Baltimore was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his key discovery and application of reverse transcription in viruses, which contributed widely to the understanding of cancer, AIDS, and the molecular basis of the immune response. Reverse transcription was instrumental in the identification of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) as the cause of AIDS, and reverse transcriptases subsequently became a successful therapeutic target for the disease, resulting in several HIV-suppression drugs.
He also devised the Baltimore classification system, a taxonomy that classifies viruses into seven groups according to their genome type and their method of replication. Baltimore currently studies control of inflammatory and immune responses, the roles of microRNAs in the immune system, and on the use of gene therapy methods to treat HIV and cancer. He heads the Joint Center for Translational Medicine, a Caltech and UCLA collaboration that aims to translate basic scientific discoveries into clinical realities.
One of the world’s most influential biologists, Baltimore has influenced national science policy on issues including recombinant DNA research and the AIDS epidemic as the Founding Director of MIT’s Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, Chair of the National Academy of Sciences committee on a National Strategy for AIDS, and Chair of the National Institutes of Health AIDS Vaccine Research Committee. He was also a member of the Independent Citizen’s Oversight Committee to the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine and the Board of Directors for MedImmune and Cellerant. He helped found biotechnology companies Calimmune, Immune Design, and s2a Molecular, and now serves on the Board of Directors of Amgen, Regulus Therapeutics, and the Broad Foundation and Broad Institute.
Among his other honors are the National Medal of Science and membership of the National Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Medicine, the American Association for Cancer Research, the Royal Society, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, where he served as President.
Baltimore obtained his B.A. in chemistry from Swarthmore College and his Ph.D. from Rockefeller University, where he returned to serve as a faculty member and President. He later entered a faculty role at MIT, where he began studying RNA viruses.