Robert Tjian


Robert Tjian (Chinese: 錢澤南; pinyin: Qián Zénán; born 1949) is a Hong Kong-born American biochemist best known for his work on eukaryotic transcription. He is currently Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of California, Berkeley and an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI). On April 1, 2009, Tjian became the President of HHMI. On August 4, 2015, he announced that he would step down as President at the end of 2016.[1]

Robert Tjian
Alma materUniversity of California, Berkeley, Harvard University, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
AwardsNAS Award in Molecular Biology (1991)
Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize (1999)
Alfred P. Sloan Jr. Prize (1999)
Scientific career
InstitutionsUniversity of California, Berkeley, HHMI
Doctoral advisorRichard Losick
Other academic advisorsRichard Losick, James D. Watson
Doctoral studentsBrian David Dynlacht


Tjian was born in Hong Kong in 1949. His father Tjian Tze-Ning (Qian Zining; 錢子寧), a native of Shaoxing, Zhejiang, was a famous capitalist in Shanghai and pioneer of China's modern paper industry. In April 1949, Tjian's family and business all moved to Hong Kong; in 1950 moved to São Paulo, Brazil; and later settled in New Jersey, the United States.[citation needed]

Tjian received a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of California, Berkeley in 1971 and a Ph.D. degree from Harvard University in 1976. He was a postdoctoral fellow at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory with James D. Watson for three years before returning to the University of California in 1979 when he was appointed Assistant Professor of Biochemistry.[2] In 2008, Tjian joined the Board of Directors of the Lasker Foundation.

In 1978, Tjian found the first protein of a virus which can regulate gene expression in mammalian cells, the SV40 large T antigen. He showed that "activator" proteins, which previously had been shown to play crucial roles in regulating gene expression in simple organisms, also exist in higher organisms. He and his colleagues further discovered several gene-regulatory proteins.

Tjian is also notable in drug-target studies and their applications. Tjian developed some highly efficient and sensitive techniques to detect cellular quantities such as proteins. In 1989, Tjian, together with two colleagues David Goeddel (father of MLB players Erik and Tyler Goeddel) and Steve McKnight, co-founded Tularik Inc., a biotechnology company based in South San Francisco, California. Tularik was acquired by Amgen for $1.3 billion in 2004.[3]

In 2020, Tjian collaborated with Jennifer Doudna and other UC Berkeley colleagues on a response to the COVID-19 pandemic.[4]

Tjian is also a member of the USA Science and Engineering Festival's Advisory Board.[5]

Awards and honorsEdit


  1. ^ "HHMI President Robert Tjian to Step Down". Retrieved January 16, 2016.
  2. ^ ScienceWatch Archive: Robert Tjian Pioneers a Biochemical Path to Transcription Studies
  3. ^ Amgen (2004-03-29). "Amgen to Acquire Tularik for $1.3 Billion". Amgen.
  4. ^ Isaacson, Walter (2021). The Code Breaker. Simon & Schuster. p. 405. ISBN 978-1-9821-1585-2.
  5. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-04-21. Retrieved 2016-04-12.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) retrieved 2010-07-05
  6. ^ "APS Member History". Retrieved 2021-04-23.
  7. ^ 院士基本資料: 錢澤南 (Basic information of Academician: Robert Tjian)
  8. ^ Robert Tjian Named California Scientist of Year- by Robert Sanders
  9. ^ National Cancer Institute: MERIT Award Recipient: Robert Tjian, PhD
  10. ^ "2021's Best and Brightest Alumni, Faculty Honored at Berkeley Charter Gala". Cal Alumni Association. 2021-06-01. Retrieved 2021-07-02.

External linksEdit

  • Research Summary, UC Berkeley
  • HHMI Scientist Bio
  • Robert Tjian's Seminar: "The Molecular Biology of Gene Regulation"
  • Profile of Tjian's role as cofounder of biotechnology company Tularik