Bernard Roizman

The University of Chicago

Primary Section: 44, Microbial Biology
Membership Type: Member (elected 1979)


Bernard Roizman received his Sc.D. in 1956 from the Johns Hopkins University and remained on the Hopkins faculty until 1965. He then transferred to the University of Chicago where he rose to the position of Joseph Regenstein Distinguished Service Professor in Microbiology and Molecular Genetics and Cell Biology. He retired in 2017 but continued o work at a Research Institute in Shenzhen China. The long term focus of his research was on the functions and regulation of herpes simplex virus genes. Since approximately 2000 his research shifted to engineering of novel herpes viruses designed for therapy of human cancer. Bernard Roizman is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Medicine, National Academy of Inventors, American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is a foreign member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering (Medicine) and a honorary member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences.  His numerous awards include the Selman Waksman Award in Microbiology from the National Academy of sciences, the ICN International Prize in Virology,; J. Allyn Taylor International Prize in Medicine,; Bristol-Myers Squibb Award for Distinguished Achievement in Infectious Disease Research.  He is the recipient of honorary degrees from Universities in US, France, Italy and Spain.

Research Interests

My research encompasses broad aspects of the biology of herpes viruses, from the molecular biology of the viruses to their application as therapeutic agents in cancer. My interests for the past 30 years centered on the molecular biology of herpes simplex viruses and application of our discoveries to specific problems related to human health. The studies done in my laboratory included (a) the unraveling of the general plan for the regulation of viral gene expression, including the discovery of a virion protein (alphaTIF or VP16) which transactivates viral genes after infection; (b) the arrangement of unique and repeated elements in the viral genome including the evidence for the existence of four genomic isoforms; (c) the discovery of viral DNA polymorphism and the application of this phenomenon to trace transmission from person to person (coined the term molecular epidemiology); (d) the development of the technique for site specific gene insertion/deletion in large viral genomes; (e) the construction of attenuated viruses for prophylactic and therapeutic use; (f) the discovery of the function of several genes including, most recently, that of a gene which blocks the induction of the interferon pathway, etc. Current research centers on viral gene functions and on the biochemical interaction of viral and cellular proteins. The objective of these studies is to elucidate the mechanisms by which a biological entity carrying a few dozen genes can so thoroughly subvert human cells encoding approximately 70,000 genes.

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