Department News



Jim Wang
A symposium will be held on Saturday, April 30, 2005, to celebrate the accomplishments of Jim Wang on the occasion of his retirement from the Harvard faculty.  Jim’s career as an independent investigator over the last 40 years spans an era in the biological and biophysical sciences in which many fundamental discoveries have been made that have revolutionized our understanding of molecular, cellular and developmental biology. The research undertaken in Jim’s laboratories at UC Berkeley (1966-1977) and Harvard (1977-2005) resulted in seminal discoveries relating to the topological properties of DNA and the ubiquitous role of the DNA topoisomerase class of enzymes, which he discovered, in governing key cellular processes including DNA replication, recombination and gene expression.  These efforts encompass studies undertaken in bacteria, fungi and mammals and the application of techniques in biochemistry, biophysics, molecular and classical genetics, structural biology and functional genomics.

In addition, the output from Jim’s group has had a significant impact on the discovery and development of pharmaceutical agents that are widely used today in the chemotherapeutic treatment of cancer and bacterial infections.  These include direct contributions to the field in elucidating the mechanisms underlying the activity of DNA topoisomerase-targeting anticancer and antibiotic agents, and creating reagents and assay systems to aid further discovery and development efforts.  The body of basic knowledge generated in the Wang laboratory regarding the cellular roles and enzymatic mechanisms of the DNA topoisomerase family has also contributed indirectly in an immeasurable way to worldwide drug discovery and development programs.  This legacy will endure in a practical and profound way, long beyond Jim’s own era of discovery. 

Through his early accomplishments and consistent contributions over 40 years, Jim has established himself as both a pioneer and thought-leader, and the occasion of his retirement signifies a pivotal milestone in his field.  Jim has also been a mentor to generations of students and postdoctoral scientists who will gather to express their gratitude on this festive occasion.

The symposium will be divided into six one-hour sessions, during which many colleagues, and graduate and postdoctoral students from the various stages of Jim’s career will make presentations on the scientific contributions from the Wang lab, as well as reflect, on a more personal level, on their interactions with Professor Wang and associates. Questions will be taken from the audience, time permitting.

Session chairs include: Paul Modrich, Department of Biochemistry, Duke University Medical Center, a colleague from Professor Wang’s time in the Chemistry Department at UC Berkeley (1966-1977).  Dick Gumport, Department of Biochemistry, University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, will chair the second session, to be followed by John Hearst, Emeritus Professor of Chemistry, UC Berkeley, joined by two academic colleagues—Henri Buc, Pasteur Institute and Kiyoshi Mizuuchi, Laboratory of Molecular Biology, NIDDK, NIH—in the third session.

After lunch, several former graduate and postdoctoral students of Jim’s will share their perspectives; sessions will be chaired by Mary-Ann Bjornsti, a former graduate student in the Wang lab (Department Molecular Pharmacology, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital); and Simon Lynch (Cumbre Inc., Dallas, TX), a former postdoc from the Wang Lab.

Tom Maniatis, Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, Harvard University, will chair the final session, and will be joined by other current MCB colleagues, Nancy Kleckner and Richard Losick, and former colleague, Mark Ptashne, Department of Molecular Biology, Memorial Sloane Kettering Cancer Center, NY.

Please join Jim’s friends, colleagues, collaborators and students in celebration of his career as an experimentalist and mentor.

View James Wang’s Faculty Profile