Axel T. Brunger

Stanford University


Primary Section: 29, Biophysics and Computational Biology
Secondary Section: 21, Biochemistry
Membership Type: Member (elected 2005)

Biosketch

Axel Brunger received his Physics Diploma at the University of Hamburg in 1980, and his Ph.D. degree from the Technical University of Munich in 1982 working with Klaus Schulten. He held a NATO postdoctoral fellowship and subsequently became a research associate with Martin Karplus at the Department of Chemistry, Harvard University. In 1987, he joined the faculty in the Department of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry at Yale University. In 2000, he moved to Stanford University where he is Professor of Molecular and Cellular Physiology. He also holds an appointment as Investigator in the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. In 1995, he was awarded the Röntgen Prize for Biosciences from the University of Würzburg. In 2003, he received the Gregori Aminoff Award of the Royal Swedish Academy.  In 2005, he was elected member of the National Academy of Sciences. In 2011, he received the DeLano Award of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and in 2014, he received both the Bernard Katz Award of the Biophysical Society and the Carl Hermann Medal of the German Crystallographic Society. In 2016, he received the Trueblood Award of the American Crystallographic Association.

Research Interests

Brunger developed computational tools that enabled determination of difficult X-ray crystal structures and also made the methods accessible to the non-expert. Among his innovations that have become standards in the field are simulated annealing refinement, a method to overcome local minima, and the free R value, an objective measure of a model's quality. More recently, Brunger uncovered the molecular mechanisms of neurotransmitter release when synaptic vesicles fuse with active zones of presynaptic neurons. To capture and study the protein machinery at work, he determined three-dimensional structures ranging from atomic to cellular resolutions and then reconstituted these machines with biophysical assays.

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