The Beckman Center for Molecular and Genetic Medicine promotes discovery and innovation in the basic sciences, and accelerates the introduction and application of new technologies in basic science research and clinical medicine.
The breakthroughs that took place in genetic engineering, cell imaging, and genomics in the late 1970s and 1980s had a profound impact on the field of medicine, introducing new technologies and opening up new avenues for research in genetics and molecular biology.
Nobel Laureate Paul Berg, Ph.D., Establishes the Beckman Center
Recognizing the impact this new body of knowledge would have in improving the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of disease, Paul Berg, Ph.D., a Stanford University School of Medicine professor and Nobel Laureate, sought to establish a center at Stanford University that would integrate the basic, clinical, and applied sciences. His vision was that the rapid advancements taking place in the fields of molecular biology and genetics might become more readily available to clinical scientists, and thus hasten the translation of scientific discovery into new medical technologies and clinical applications. In 1989, with major support from the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation, Dr. Berg’s vision became reality. The Arnold and Mabel Beckman Center for Molecular and Genetic Medicine was established, and Stanford University ushered in a new era of rapid advancement in the field of molecular and genetic medicine.
Lucy Shapiro, Ph.D., the Virginia and D.K. Ludwig Professor of Cancer Research, was appointed director of the Beckman Center in 2004. A distinguished cell and molecular biologist working in the field of developmental biology, Dr. Shapiro is renowned for her discovery of mechanisms that define cell polarity and asymmetric cell division, processes that are key in cell differentiation and in the generation of cell diversity. She was the founding chair of the Department of Developmental Biology at the Stanford School of Medicine, and has received numerous awards for her work, including the National Academy of Sciences’ 2005 Selman A. Waksman Award in Microbiology, the 2009 Canada Gairdner International Award, the 2011 National Medal of Science, the 2012 Dean’s Medal from the Stanford University School of Medicine, the 2013 Pearl Meister Greengard Prize, awarded by Rockefeller University, and most recently, the 2020 Dickson Prize in Science, awarded by Carnegie Mellon University. Under Dr. Shapiro's leadership, the Beckman Center continues to be at the vanguard of basic science and technological discovery.
A Model of Interdisciplinary Collaboration
Serving as a model of interdisciplinary collaboration at Stanford University, the Beckman Center houses three basic science departments as well as the administrative offices of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI). The center houses a world-class faculty of research scientists that includes three Nobel Laureates and 24 members of the National Academy of Sciences. The HHMI office provides support to 24 HHMI Investigators at the Beckman Center and across campus.
The Beckman Center has given rise to forward-thinking, collaborative, interdisciplinary approaches such as the Bio-X program, which brings together biomedical and life science researchers, clinicians, engineers, physicists, and computational scientists, the Department of Bioengineering, a novel joint department that spans the schools of Medicine and Engineering, and the Center for Biomedical Informatics Research, which provides multidisciplinary training and research experience in the field of biomedical informatics.
Paul Berg, Ph.D.
Lucy Shapiro, Ph.D.