The Thomas Alber Memorial Fund in Infectious Diseases

by / Monday, 14 April 2014 / Published in news

The Alber Family and Berkeley faculty together have set a goal of raising $50,000 to name an ongoing lecture series in honor of  Tom Alber, founding faculty director of CEND. We hope that you will join us in celebrating his legacy and that you will consider making a gift to help establish a lecture series that will bear his name in perpetuity. Checks may be made out to the UC Berkeley Foundation, with “In memory of Thomas C. Alber” in the memo line, and sent to University Relations, 2080 Addison Street, MC #4200, Berkeley, CA 94720.
If you prefer to give online, visit, and search for Alber.

Alber, a professor in the department of molecular and cell biology, was a structural biologist who used sophisticated techniques of protein biochemistry and X-ray crystallography to explore the structure/function relationship of proteins.  His most recent research focused on the development and application of new approaches to the study of host-pathogen interactions with particular emphasis on tuberculosis and HIV. The complexity of these infections and the relative lack of research on infectious diseases that disproportionately affect the developing world piqued Alber’s interest. He realized that few, if any, of the most cutting edge methods in science are developed for, or applied to such diseases. Moreover, it often takes years for advances in the methodologies for studying model systems to be translated and applied to diseases afflicting those people most in need. Among his many innovations, he co-developed the “Elves” software package, which automated crystallographic analysis, and co-founded the TB Structural Genomics Consortium, which now has many international members. He was Principal Investigator of the Keck Macrolab, which greatly accelerated the crystallization of proteins for study by X-ray crystallography and also served as Prinicipal Investigator of the UCB/UCSF Beamline 8.3.1 of the Advanced Light Source at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. He was an elected member of the America Association for the Advancement of Science.

In 2008, when the Henry Wheeler Center for Emerging & Neglected Diseases (CEND) was established through a generous gift from Henry “Sam” Wheeler, Jr., Alber was the obvious choice to serve as its founding faculty director.  The evolution of his research toward applying the most advanced techniques in structural biology to answer fundamental questions about the critical interactions between the bacterium that causes tuberculosis and its host exemplifies CEND’s mission and served as an inspiration to many of Alber’s peers.

Alber’s passion for global health found its full expression in his own research on tuberculosis and HIV and through his role at the helm of CEND. Although his time as the faculty director of CEND was cut short by his illness, Alber remained an advisor and advocate for CEND’s mission until his death. He passed away peacefully after a courageous five year battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a neurodegenerative disease often called Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Read more about Alber’s life and career  here.

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