PDB History

October 2011 Molecule of the Month features historic structures that set the foundation for the PDB archive.

The PDB was established in 1971 at Brookhaven National Laboratory under the leadership of Walter Hamilton and originally contained 7 structures. After Hamilton's untimely death, Tom Koetzle began to lead the PDB in 1973, and then Joel Sussman in 1994. Led by Helen M. Berman, the Research Collaboratory for Structural Bioinformatics (RCSB) became responsible for the management of the PDB in 1998 in response to an RFP and a lengthy review process.  Three institutions were involved: Rutgers, UCSD/SDSC, and CARB/NIST.

In 2003, the Worldwide Protein Data Bank (wwPDB) was formed to maintain a single PDB archive of macromolecular structural data that is freely and publicly available to the global community. It consists of organizations that act as deposition, data processing and distribution centers for PDB data. 

CARB/NIST left RCSB PDB in 2005 (see Emeritus RCSB PDB Leadership).

Stephen K. Burley became RCSB PDB Director in 2014. Helen M. Berman currently serves as Director Emerita.

UCSF joined RCSB PDB in 2019.


Updated from The Protein Data Bank at 40: Reflecting on the Past to Prepare for the Future (2012) Structure 20: 391–396.

Events order

Protein Data Bank History

Structural Biology Highlights

Video: Celebrating 50 Years of the Protein Data Bank Archive

Structural biology methods and milestones that helped to build and grow the PDB archive

Selected Historical Publications (All Publications | Citation Information)

  • Creating a community resource for protein science
    (2012) Protein Science 21: 1587-1596 doi: 10.1002/pro.2154
  • The Protein Data Bank at 40: Reflecting on the Past to Prepare for the Future
    (2012) Structure 20: 391-396 doi:10.1016/j.str.2012.01.010
  • The evolution of the Protein Data Bank (part of special essay collection on the 40th anniversary of the PDB)
    (2011) Nature Structural & Molecular Biology 18: 1310 doi: 10.1038/nsmb1211-1304
  • The Protein Data Bank: a historical perspective
    (2008) Acta Cryst. A64: 88-95. doi: 10.1107/S0108767307035623
  • The PDB: A case study in management of community data
    (2004) Current Proteomics 1: 49-57. doi: 10.2174/1570164043488252
  • Announcing the worldwide Protein Data Bank
    (2003) Nature Structural Biology, 10:. 980. doi: 10.1038/nsb1203-980
  • The Protein Data Bank
    (2000) Nucleic Acids Research 28: 235-242. doi: 10.1093/nar/28.1.235
  • Protein Data Bank
    (1971) Nature New Biology 233:223 doi: 10.1038/newbio233223b0