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August 14, 2006

AIDS vaccine expert Phillip Berman to head Biomolecular Engineering Department

UCSC's Baskin School of Engineering has recruited Phillip Berman, a pioneer in the development of recombinant vaccines for AIDS and other infectious diseases, to serve as professor and chair of the Department of Biomolecular Engineering.

Phillip Berman
Phillip Berman

Berman, who joined the UCSC faculty in July, has nearly 25 years of experience in the biotechnology industry. His current research interests include the development of vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics for the prevention and treatment of infectious diseases, as well as the development of new technology for commercial production of complex recombinant glycoproteins.

UCSC's Department of Biomolecular Engineering has created a unique interdisciplinary blend of engineering, computer science, biology, and chemistry. Berman brings to the program a new focus in infectious diseases, as well as valuable insights into the needs of the biotechnology industry, said Steve Kang, dean of the Baskin School of Engineering.

"I am most pleased to have Dr. Berman join our faculty to lead the Biomolecular Engineering Department at this critical juncture. With his deep knowledge of the biotechnology field and extensive experience in the industry, Dr. Berman will help realize the vision of the Baskin School of  Engineering in pioneering biomolecular engineering and bioengineering programs, in particular in building strong links to the biotechnology industry in the Bay Area and globally," Kang said.

Berman spent 15 years at Genentech, where he led research on recombinant proteins, vaccine development, and monoclonal antibodies. In 1995, he cofounded VaxGen, where he served as senior vice president for research and development. He oversaw VaxGen's efforts to develop an HIV vaccine and also began an anthrax vaccine program.

In 2004, Berman cofounded Global Solutions for Infectious Diseases, a nonprofit research organization dedicated to combining knowledge and expertise from the biotechnology industry and the public health sector to address infectious disease problems in the developing world.

Berman earned his bachelor's degree in biology at UC Berkeley and his Ph.D. in biochemistry at Dartmouth Medical School. He held postdoctoral positions at the Salk Institute in La Jolla and at UCSF, where he worked with Genentech cofounder Herbert Boyer. He currently serves on the scientific advisory board of the AIDS Vaccine Integrated Project (AVIP), a joint effort of European and African research groups, and has also served as an adviser to World Health Organization programs on HIV and SARS.

"I will work to develop a first-rate biotechnology program at UCSC that takes advantage of the campus's proximity to the Bay Area biotech community," Berman said.

Jack Baskin, a UCSC Foundation trustee and longtime supporter of the engineering school, provided an endowment for the Biomolecular Engineering Department that has been especially helpful in recruiting new faculty members, Kang said.

"I share the excitement of many faculty members on our campus in working with Dr. Berman to build excellent research and education programs," he said.

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