David Baltimore is an accomplished researcher, educator, administrator, and public advocate for science and engineering and is considered one of the world’s most influential biologists.
After serving as President of the California Institute of Technology for nine years, Baltimore was appointed President Emeritus and the Robert Andrews Millikan Professor of Biology in 2006. Awarded the Nobel Prize at the age of 37 for research in virology, Baltimore has profoundly influenced national science policy on such issues as recombinant DNA research and the AIDS epidemic.
Born in New York City, Baltimore became interested in biology during high school when he spent a summer at the Jackson Memorial Laboratory and worked with research biologists on mammalian genetics. He received his B.A. in chemistry from Swarthmore College in 1960 and a Ph.D. in 1964 from Rockefeller University, where he returned to serve as President from 1990-91 and faculty member until 1994.
For almost 30 years, Baltimore was a faculty member at Massachusetts Institute of Technology where his early investigations examined the molecular processes underlying the ability of poliovirus to infect cells. This led him to work on other RNA viruses and then to a consideration of how cancer-causing RNA viruses manage to infect and permanently alter a healthy cell. He identified the enzyme reverse transcriptase in the virus particles, thus providing strong evidence for a process of RNA to DNA conversion, the existence of which had been hypothesized some years earlier. Baltimore and Howard Temin (with Renato Dulbecco, for related research) shared the 1975 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their discovery, which provided the key to understanding the life cycle of retroviruses such as HIV. In the following years, he has contributed widely to the understanding of cancer, AIDS, and the molecular basis of the immune response.
His present research focuses on control of inflammatory and immune responses, on the roles of microRNAs in the immune system, and on the use of gene therapy methods to treat HIV and cancer in a program called “Engineering Immunity.” He has become Director of the Joint Center for Translational Medicine, an activity that joins Caltech and UCLA in a program to translate basic science discoveries into clinical realities and where an active clinical program is under way.
Baltimore has several outstanding administrative and public policy achievements to his credit. In the mid-1970s, he played an important role in creating a consensus on national science policy regarding recombinant DNA research. He served as founding director of the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research at MIT from 1982 until 1990. An early advocate of federal AIDS research, Baltimore co-chaired the 1986 National Academy of Sciences committee on a National Strategy for AIDS and was appointed in 1996 to head the National Institutes of Health AIDS Vaccine Research Committee.
Baltimore served as a member of the Independent Citizen’s Oversight Committee to the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine until 2007 and on the Board of Directors for both MedImmune until 2007 and Cellerant until 2008.
He has played an important role in the development of American biotechnology since his involvement in the 1970s in the formation of Collaborative Genetics. He helped found other companies such as Calimmune and Immune Design and most recently s2A Molecular, Inc. He presently serves on the Board of Directors at several companies and non-profit institutions including the Broad Foundation and Broad Institute, and Amgen and Regulus Therapeutics. He is a member of numerous Scientific Advisory Boards, including the Broad Institute, Ragon Institute, Regulus Therapeutics, and Immune Design. He is a Scientific Partner to the venture capital firm, The Column Group, and until recently, he was a Director of the Swiss investment company BB Biotech.
Baltimore’s numerous honors include the 1970 Gustave Stern Award in Virology, 1971 Eli Lilly and Co. Award in Microbiology and Immunology, 1999 National Medal of Science, and 2000 Warren Alpert Foundation Prize. He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1974,