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Jeremy Nathans, M.D., Ph.D.

Professor of Molecular Biology and Genetics


  • Professor of Molecular Biology and Genetics
  • Professor of Neuroscience
  • Professor of Ophthalmology

Centers & Institutes

  • Center for Sensory Biology
  • Institute for Basic Biomedical Sciences
  • Wilmer Eye Institute Research

Research Interests

Molecular mechanisms of visual system development, function and disease


Dr. Jeremy Nathans is a professor of molecular biology and genetics, neuroscience and ophthalmology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. His research focuses on molecular mechanisms of visual system development, function, and disease.

Dr. Nathans is responsible for landmark discoveries that have changed our understanding of how humans see the world. His investigations into the mechanisms that allow us to see colors led him to identify the genes that code for color-vision receptors in the light-sensing cones of the retina. This breakthrough finding allowed him to show that variations in these genes cause color blindness. His work has also led to new understandings of the development, function and survival of the retina.

Dr. Nathans received his undergraduate degree in Life Sciences and Chemistry from MIT and earned his Ph.D. in Biochemistry and M.D. from Stanford University. He completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Genentech, Inc. Dr. Nathans joined the Johns Hopkins faculty in 1988.

He serves on the editorial board of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and is on many scientific advisory boards including The Foundation Fighting Blindness and Merck Research Laboratories. He became a member of the Institute of Medicine in 2011 and his work has been recognized with numerous awards, including the Edward M. Scolnick Prize in Neuroscience by the McGovern Institute at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.


  • English


Institute of Medicine, U.S.A., 2011

American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 2000

National Academy of Sciences, U.S.A., 1996

Additional Resources +
  • Education +


    • Ph.D., Stanford School of Medicine, Stanford, CA, 1985, Biochemistry
    • M.D., Stanford School of Medicine, Stanford, CA, 1985
    • B.S., Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, 1979, Chemistry/Life Sciences
  • Research & Publications +

    Research Summary

    Dr. Nathans and his laboratory are interested in the mammalian visual system and, in particular, the retina, the light-absorbing sheet of cells that lines the back of the eye. Their general approach is to use the tools of molecular genetics to identify and study genes involved in development, function, and disease. A second interest is in elucidating the mechanisms of pattern formation during animal development and, in particular, the role of the Frizzled family of cell-surface receptors. These two interests have converged with our discovery of a Frizzled-based system for controlling the development and integrity of retinal blood vessels.

    Currently, they are working on defining the roles of Frizzled receptors in mammalian development. The foundation of our approach is the production and analysis of mice carrying targeted null or conditional null mutations in one or more Frizzled genes. They have constructed such lines for each of the ten Frizzleds, as well as for other genes that act in the same signaling pathways. This genetic analysis has revealed both diversity and unity in the functions of different Frizzled receptors, and has revealed the requirement for Frizzled signaling in a wide variety of developmental contexts, including axon guidance, vascular growth and differentiation, inner ear development, neural tube and palate closure, kidney development, and hair orientation on the body surface.

    Selected Publications

    1. Yu, H., Ye, X., Guo, N. and Nathans, J. “Frizzled2 and Frizzled7 function redundantly in convergent extension and closure of the ventricular septum and palate: evidence for a network of interacting genes.” Development 139: 4383-4394. (2012)
    2. Wang, Y., Rattner, A., Zhou, Y., Williams, J., Smallwood, P.M., and Nathans, J. “Norrin/Frizzled4 signaling in retinal vascular development and blood brain barrier plasticity.” Cell 151: 1332-1344. (2012)
    3. Wu, H., Williams, J., and Nathans, J. “Morphologic diversity of cutaneous sensory afferents revealed by genetically directed sparse labeling.” eLife 1:e00181. (2012)
    4. Badea, T.C., Williams, J., Smallwood, P., Shi, M., Motajo, O., and Nathans, J. “Combinatorial expression of Brn3 transcription factors in somatosensory neurons: genetic and morphologic analysis.” Journal of Neuroscience. 32: 995-1007. (2012)
    5. Ye, X., Wang, Y., Rattner, A., and Nathans, J. “Genetic mosaic analysis reveals a major role for frizzled4 and frizzled8 in controlling ureteric growth in the developing kidney.” Development 138: 11161-1172. (2011)


    The Nathans laboratory is focused on several broad and related areas of research: (1) neural and vascular development, and (2) the role of Frizzled receptors in mammalian development.  They use gene manipulation in the mouse, cell culture models, and biochemical reconstitution to investigate the relevant molecular events underlying these processes, and to genetically mark and manipulate cells and tissues.

  • Academic Affiliations & Courses +

    Graduate Program Affiliation

    Biochemistry, Cellular and Molecular Biology (BCMB) Graduate Program


    Cellular and Molecular Medicine (CMM)

  • Activities & Honors +


    Albert Muse Prize (The Eye and Ear Foundation of Pittsburgh), 2012

    Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science, 2009

    Edward M. Scolnick Prize in Neuroscience ( McGovern Institute, MIT), 2009

    Champalimaud Award for Vision Research (shared with King-Wai Yau), 2008

    Golden Apple Award for Teaching Excellence, American Medical Student Association, 2004

    Teacher of the Year, Graduate Student Association, Johns Hopkins Medical School 2003, 2010

    Professor’s Award for Distinction in Teaching in the Basic Sciences, Johns Hopkins Medical School, 2004

    Young Investigator Award, Society for Neuroscience, 1995

    Alcon Research Institute Award for Vision Research, Alcon Laboratories, 1992

    Cogan Award, The Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology 1992

    Golden Brain Award, Minerva Foundation 1989

    Distinguished Young Scientist Award, Maryland Academy of Sciences, 1989

    Wilson S. Stone Memorial Award, M.D. Anderson Cancer Center,1988

    Rank Prize in Opto–Electronics, Rank Prize Fund (London) 1988

    Initiatives in Research Award, National Academy of Sciences, U.S.A., 1987

    Young Scientist Award, Passano Foundation 1987

    Newcomb–Cleveland Prize, American Association for the Advancement of Science, 1986

    Alpha Chi Sigma Award for excellence in chemistry, M.I.T. ,1979

    John Asinari Award for undergraduate research in the life sciences, M.I.T., 1978

    Professional Activities

    Grant Review Panel, Beckman Initiative for Macular Research 2010-present

    Grant Review Panel, HHMI Professors Program, 2010

    Scientific Advisory Committee, Machiah Foundation, 2009 - 2011

    Advisor, HHMI Janelia Farm Research Campus, 2009 - present

    Visiting Committee, Division of Medical Sciences, Harvard Medical School, 2006-present

    Grant Review Panel, HHMI International Scholars Program 2006, 2011

    Associate Editor, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, U.S.A. ,2005 - 2006

    Scientific Advisory Board for Ophthalmology, Novartis, 2005 - 2008

    Grant Review Board, Life Sciences Research Foundation, 2005 - present

    Grant Review Board, McKnight Endowment Fund for Neuroscience, 2000 - 2011

    Intramural Program Review Committee, National Eye Institute, N.I.H., 1997 - 1998

    Associate Editor, Journal of Neuroscience, 1991 - 1996

    Editorial Board Member, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, U.S.A., 1999 - present

    Scientific Advisory Board, The Ruth and Milton Steinbach Fund, 1997 - 2007

    Scientific Advisory Board, Merck Research Laboratories, 1996 - 1999 and 2008 - present

    Scientific Advisory Board, The Foundation Fighting Blindness 1995 - present

    Scientific Advisory Board, Zanvil Kreiger Mind–Brain Institute, J.H.U., 1991 - 1992

  • Videos & Media +


    Jeremy Nathans on studying the retina

    Jeremy Nathans discusses the work that his lab does to learn about the development of the nervous system, particularly the retina of the eye.

    Recent News Articles & Media Coverage

    Seeing X Chromosomes in a New Light,” New York Times

  • Events +
  • Contact & Locations +


    • Molecular Biology and Genetics
    • Neuroscience
    • Ophthalmology

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