Princeton Resident Helen Berman to Receive Benjamin Franklin Award


Princeton resident Helen Berman, a professor of chemistry and chemical biology at the Center for Integrative Proteomics Research at Rutgers University, has been selected to receive the Benjamin Franklin Award for open access in the life sciences from the Bioinformatics Organization.

Berman, the director of the Research Collaboratory for Structural Bioinformatics Protein Data Bank, will receive the award and deliver a presentation at the Bio-IT World Conference and Expo on April 30 in Boston.

The  humanitarian and bioethics award is presented annually by the Bioinformatics Organization to an individual who has promoted free and open access to the materials and methods used in the life sciences. Berman is the 13th recipient of the award.

“Helen’s leadership of the Protein Data Bank has been invaluable to so many scientists,” said Rutgers Professor Roger Jones. “I can think of few if any people who are more deserving of an award for open access in the life sciences. Helen truly embodies the spirit of this special honor.”

Berman  was raised in Brooklyn and studied Chemistry at Barnard College before earning a Ph.D. at the University of Pittsburgh. She worked at Fox Chase Cancer Center for 20 years, researching nucleic acid crystallography and drug nucleic acid interactions. She moved to Rutgers in 1989, expanded her program to include the study of the structures of collagen and protein-nucleic acid complexes, and at the same time developed structural databases and ontologies.

In the 1970s, Berman began working with colleagues to establish the Protein Data Bank archive at Brookhaven National Laboratory as a place to store and share data about the 3D structures of proteins and nucleic acids. In 1998, when the Protein Data Bank was moved to Rutgers, the data bank had 9,000 archived structures. The Protein Data Bank will release a milestone 100,000 structures in May.

The Protein Data Bank archive is the single worldwide repository of information about the 3D structures of large biological molecules, including proteins and nucleic acids, providing an essential resource of information about biomolecular structures. These molecules of life are found in all organisms, from bacteria and plants to animals and humans.

The Bioinformatics Organization serves the scientific and educational needs of bioinformatic practitioners and the general public. The organization maintains computational resources to facilitate worldwide communications and collaborations, and promotes open access to the materials and methods required for, and derived from, research, development and education.