Beverly Marie Emerson

Oregon Health & Science University
Biological Sciences
Biochemistry, Biophysics, and Molecular Biology
Member Since
Dr. Beverly M. Emerson is a Distinguished Scientist at the Knight Cancer Institute, Oregon Health & Science University and Professor Emeritus of The Salk Institute for Biological Sciences. As an academic scientist, she directed a research laboratory for over 30 years which made discoveries that delineated fundamental mechanisms underpinning gene regulation, epigenetics, chromosome biology, and cancer. Emerson’s work demonstrated that enhancer DNA elements control transcription at long-range by uniquely linking promoter activity with DNA topology. She showed how functionally diverse chromatin remodeling enzymes are differentially targeted to regulate expression of specific genes. In cancers, Emerson discovered that one cause of aberrant epigenetic re-programming is destabilization of chromatin boundaries that normally maintain active genetic domains. She defined how the tumor suppressor protein p53 interacts with DNA and chromatin and showed that diverse core promoters modulate the transcriptional kinetics of p53 stress response genes to direct specific cell fates. Currently, her work is focused on understanding how evolutionary principles that govern emergent behaviors in communities at all scales (molecules, cells, lower organisms, humans) may provide insight into dysfunctional societal and cellular (metastatic) systems. Appreciating the value of interdisciplinary teams for effective problem solving, she works collaboratively with bioengineers, physicists, and clinicians as a member of the OHSU Cancer Early Detection Advanced Research (CEDAR) Program and previously with the Princeton Physical Sciences and Oncology Center. Her research has been supported by competitive awards for over 30 years from the National Institutes of Health, California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, Pew Charitable Trusts, and private foundations. She has numerous peer-reviewed publications, invited review articles, and holds a U.S. patent. Dr. Emerson received the Pew Scholars Award in the Biomedical Sciences and was elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. She has served on the Boards of non-profit organizations (Keystone Symposia, Salk Institute) and was elected Chair of the Salk Institute faculty. In addition, she has organized national and international academic scientific conferences and served as an expert consultant for law firms, biotech, academic, government, and investor groups. Dr. Emerson received her B.A and Ph.D. in molecular biology from the University of California, San Diego and Washington University, respectively, and did postdoctoral training at the National Institutes of Health.
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