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Joseph DeRisi, PhD, Appointed as New Chair of Biochemistry and Biophysics

Published: 03/03/2014

Joe DeRisi, PhD

Dean Sam Hawgood announced the appointment of Joseph DeRisi, PhD, as the new chair of the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, on March 3, 2014.

Dr. DeRisi has served as vice chair in the Biochemistry and Biophysics department since 2007.  He holds a joint appointment at the California Institute for Quantitative Biosciences (QB3), is a current Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator, and holds the Gordon M. Tomkins Chair.

As a graduate student, Dr. DeRisi helped pioneer the use of DNA microarray technology in the lab of Patrick O. Brown. He has continued to develop and use genome-wide technologies for the study of malaria. In another significant area of research, along with Don Ganem, DeRisi and his colleagues created a "virus chip"—a comprehensive array of the most conserved and characteristic DNA sequences from each viral family. In 2003, DeRisi and his colleagues used this technology to assist in the identification of the SARS virus, within 24 hours of receiving a sample from the Centers for Disease Control.  As part of QB3, DeRisi continues to pioneer the use of genomic technology, including next-generation deep sequencing methods, to discover new viruses in a wide range of species, including honeybees, reptiles, birds, and humans. 

Dr. DeRisi earned his BA in biochemistry and molecular biology from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and his PhD in biochemistry from Stanford University. After graduating from Stanford, he joined UCSF as a Sandler fellow and a year later joined the faculty.

Dr. DeRisi has been the recipient of several awards, including being named a MacArthur fellow (the "Genius" award) in 2004 by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, as well as receiving the 14th Annual Heinz Award for Technology, the Economy, and Employment, for his extraordinary breakthroughs in detecting both new and existing viruses in 2008.  Most recently, DeRisi was awarded the John J. Carty Award for the Advancement of Science for developing new genomic technologies and using these technologies to make discoveries in virology that are of fundamental and practical importance. He will be honored at the NAS annual meeting this year in April.