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Pamela J. Bjorkman

Pamela J. Bjorkman

Pamela Jane Bjorkman NAS, AAAS (also spelled Pamela J. Björkman born 1956[1] in Portland, Oregon[2]) is an American biochemist. She is the David Baltimore Professor of Biology and Biological Engineering at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech),[3] Her research centers on the study of the three-dimensional structures of proteins related to Class I MHC, or Major Histocompatibility Complex, proteins of the immune system and proteins involved in the immune responses to viruses . Bjorkman is most well known as a pioneer in the field of structural biology.

HLA-A2 molecule; peptide antigen groove (starred) on top domain
Pamela J. Björkman
Alma materUniversity of Oregon (B.A., 1978)
Harvard University (Ph.D, 1984)
Scientific career
Biological Engineering
InstitutionsCalifornia Institute of Technology
Howard Hughes Medical Institute
Academic advisorsDon Wiley

Bjorkman earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Chemistry at the University of Oregon, under the guidance of Hayes Griffith and Patricia Jost. She received her PhD in biochemistry at Harvard University in 1984, where she worked in the laboratory of Don Wiley. She stayed on in Wiley's lab in a postdoctoral position where she ultimately solved the first crystal structure of an MHC protein - the HLA-A2 human histocompatibility antigen. This work was published in 1987,[4] first at 3.5Å resolution (PDB entry 1HLA) and then refined at 2.6Å (PDB entry 3HLA).[5] Bjorkman continued her postdoctoral research at Stanford University in the laboratory of Mark Davis, studying the T-cell receptors that recognize antigens presented in the binding groove of MHC proteins. In 1989, she joined the Biology faculty at the California Institute of Technology as an assistant professor. She earned tenure as an associate professor in 1995 and was promoted to full professor in 1998. She was an HHMI investigator from 1989–2015.

The Bjorkman laboratory is interested in immune recognition of viral pathogens in order to develop improved therapeutics against rapidly-evolving viruses such as HIV-1. They use X-ray crystallography, cryo-electron microscopy, and biochemistry to study pathogen envelope glycoproteins and host immune response proteins. Using structural information and alternate antibody architectures, they are engineering antibody-based reagents with increased potency and breadth. They are also investigating the structural correlates of broad and potent antibody-mediated neutralization of HIV-1 to better understand what leads to naturally-occurring broad and potent antibodies. In related work, they use 3D imaging techniques such as electron tomography and fluorescent microscopy to investigate HIV/SIV infection in animal and human tissues.

Pamela Bjorkman's Erdős number is two, based on publication of a structural and mathematical analysis of the symmetry of insect ferritin with mathematician Peter Hamburger.  

Bjorkman is married to the neurobiologist Kai Zinn, also a full professor at Caltech. Bjorkman and Zinn have two children.



  1. "Book of Members, 1780–2010: Chapter B" (PDF). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved July 26, 2011.
  2. "Caltech Professor Pamela Bjorkman Elected To National Academy of Sciences - Caltech".
  3. Researchers have isolated a protein receptor in chickens responsible for transferring antibodies from mother to offspring. The Medical News. May 24, 2004.
  4. Bjorkman PJ, Saper MA, Samraoui B, Bennett WS, Strominger JL, Wiley DC (1987). "Structure of the human class I histocompatibility antigen, HLA-A2". Nature. 329 (6139): 506–512. Bibcode:1987Natur.329..506B. doi:10.1038/329506a0. PMID 3309677. S2CID 4373217.
  5. Saper MA, Bjorkman PJ, Wiley DC (1991). "Refined structure of the human histocompatibility antigen HLA-A2 at 2.6 A resolution". Journal of Molecular Biology. 219 (2): 277–319. doi:10.1016/0022-2836(91)90567-p. PMID 2038058.
  6. "Pamela Bjorkman".
  7. "William B. Coley Award". Cancer Research Institute. Retrieved 2021-09-21.
  8. "Pamela J. Bjorkman". Gairdner Foundation. Retrieved 2021-09-21.
  9. "Pamela Bjorkman, PhD - ASHI 2017". Archived from the original on 2017-11-07. Retrieved 2017-10-30.
  10. "AAI-BD Biosciences Investigator Award Past Recipients". American Association of Immunologists.
  11. "Bjorkman, Pamela J." National Academy of Sciences. Retrieved July 26, 2011.
  12. "APS Member History". Retrieved 2021-09-21.
  13. "Awards - American Society for Histocompatibility and Immunogenetics".
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