Donald Savage Headquarters, Washington, DC (Phone: 202/358-1727) David Morse Ames Research Center, Moffett Field

, CA (Phone: 650/604-4724) RELEASE: 99-61

May 18, 1999

NOBEL PRIZE WINNER TO LEAD NASA ASTROBIOLOGY INSTITUTE NASA selected Dr. Baruch Blumberg, distinguished professor, researcher, biochemist and winner of the 1976 Nobel prize for Physiology or Medicine, as Director of NASA's Astrobiology Institute (NAI), effective today. NAI is an institution without walls, a virtual organization comprising NASA centers, universities and others dedicated to studying the origin, evolution, distribution and destiny of life in the universe. "Dr. Blumberg is a world-renowned scientist and researcher who will bring powerful and committed leadership to the Agency's Astrobiology Institute," said NASA Administrator Daniel S. Goldin. "We are extremely fortunate to have a person of his scholarship, experience and accomplishment. I am delighted that he has joined the NASA team to lead our visionary program in astrobiology." Blumberg is currently senior advisor to the president of the Fox Chase Cancer Center, Philadelphia, PA. He was formerly vice president for population oncology and associate director for clinical research at the Center. Since 1977, he has served as professor of medicine and anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania. "Dr. Blumberg is internationally known for his pioneering and Nobel Prize-winning work on developing the hepatitis B vaccine," said Dr. Henry McDonald, Director of NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA. "During his distinguished career, he has made many important contributions to the fields of human biology, biochemistry and genomics. Genomics will be at the core of the theoretical and experimental underpinnings for future NASA research thrusts in Astrobiology. We are delighted that Dr. Blumberg will lead NASA's Astrobiology Institute into the 21st century."

The Astrobiology Institute, established in July 1998, employs a multidisciplinary focus to bring together astronomers, biologists, chemists, exobiologists, geologists and physicists. A key goal is to search for the origins of life -- on Earth, elsewhere in our solar system and beyond. "The NASA Astrobiology Institute is dedicated to basic scientific research on one of the most fascinating questions in biology -- the origins, evolution and destiny of life on Earth and in the universe," said Blumberg. "NASA's tradition of discovery research, using the remarkable devices and techniques they have developed, will be continued in the Institute. I am honored to have been asked to assume the directorship and, building on the excellent organization that already exists, to lead NAI into the next millennium." As director of the Institute, Blumberg will lead the new public-private partnership in its efforts to promote and conduct astrobiology research and train young researchers. He will guide efforts to develop modern communication tools and information technologies to link far-flung science teams and laboratories. Blumberg succeeds current interim director, Ames' Dr. Scott Hubbard, who continues in his role as deputy director of space. "Dr. Blumberg has made a tremendous impact in this world with his remarkable discoveries in the field of science and medicine. Now he has the opportunity to make a significant contribution on a new frontier," said Dr. Robert C. Young, president of Fox Chase. "Needless to say, we're extremely supportive of this new endeavor, and we will also be grateful for his continued work on cancer prevention at Fox Chase." Blumberg received a medical degree from Columbia University and a doctorate in biochemistry from Oxford University. He was Master of Balliol College in Oxford, England, between 1989 and 1994, and has taught human biology at Stanford University. Since his discovery of the hepatitis B vaccine and its widespread availability in 1982, the number of people infected with the disease worldwide has fallen dramatically. Blumberg holds honorary degrees from numerous universities and colleges and has received many honors and awards during his distinguished career. He is a member or fellow of many professional organizations, including the National Academy of Sciences, the American Society of Human Genetics and the American

Philosophical Society. Blumberg and his wife, Jean, are the parents of two daughters and two sons. He enjoys long-distance walks, canoeing and cattle raising. NASA's Astrobiololgy Institute currently has eleven member institutions selected through a competitive proposal review process in May 1998. Present members include: Arizona State University, Tempe; the University of Colorado, Boulder; Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA; The Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, CA; the University of California, Irvine; Pennsylvania State University, University Park; Harvard University, Cambridge, MA; the University of California, Los Angeles; Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole, MA; Carnegie Institution, Washington, DC; NASA Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX; and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA. Further information about NASA's Astrobiology Institute is available on the web at: -end-