Structural Biochemistry/Ivan Berkes


Professor Ivan Berke was the founder of the clinic enzymology and medical biochemistry in Serbia and Yugoslavia who played an important role in pharmacy and medicine. Many students under his tutorship became biochemists who specialized in my different fields. His contribution will help many new generations in the medical field. He was a role model to all of his students in every aspect.


Professor Ivan Berke was born on November 13th 1910 in Bjelovar. In 1933, he graduated from a Pharmacy Department in Zagreb. In 1936, he graduated from the 7th group of Chemistry In Zagreb. He then served in military for one year. In 1939, he obtained a doctorate in chemistry and was elected to become an assistant at the Chemical Institute of the Faculty of Medicine. After holding several positions at the Institute of Chemical, he then became director of that Institute. He became a scientific advisor in Budapest and then worked for the Institute of Chemistry in Zagreb until 1953. During 1953 and 1960, he was an Associate Professor of Biochemistry at the Medical Faculty in Skopje. In 1960, he joined the Biochemistry Institute in Belgrade. Later in 1964, he was elected as a Senior Professor of Biochemistry and remained at this position until retirement in 1978.

Academic Career and ContributionEdit

Professor Ivan Berkeš, an important figure in the field of pharmacy and medicine, was the founder of medical biochemistry and clinic enzymology in the health care of Serbia and Yugoslavia. Under his guidance, many generations of medical biochemists were educated at the Faculty of Pharmacy in Belgrade, and for a long time there was no laboratory in Serbia that did not employ one of Prof. Berkeš’s students. Prof. Berkeš founded Serbian medical biochemistry and established it as a scientific and health discipline. His work will live on through these and the future generations of medical biochemists, who remain eternally grateful and promise to honor his memory with love and respect.

Prof. Dr Ivan Berkeš was born on November 13th, 1910, in Bjelovar, where he was educated at the Classical Gymnasium (studying Latin and German for 8, and Greek for 6 years). In 1933 he graduated from the Department of Pharmacy of the Faculty of Philosophy in Zagreb. It should be mentioned that he completed his internship at the Pharmacy of Stanislav Ilakovac in Zagreb, having taken the following classes during the course of his studies: Physics with Prof. Hondl, Botany with Prof. Vouk, Chemistry with Prof. Bubanovic, Pharmacognosia with Prof. Vrgo~, Pharmaceutical Chemistry with Prof. Fluniani and Pharmaceutical Technology with Prof. Benzinger. In 1936 Ivan Berkeš also graduated from the 7th group of Chemistry (a. Chemistry, b. Experimental Physics, c. Physical Chemistry, Higher Mathematics, Mineralogy and Botany) at the Faculty of Philosophy in Zagreb.

Ivan Berkeš obtained a doctorate in philosophy (namely, chemistry) in 1939 at the University in Zagreb. That same year, he was elected as an assistant at the Chemical Institute of the Faculty of Medicine, whose head at the time was Prof. F. Bubanovic. In 1941, Dr Ivan Berkeš was dismissed from employment and the following year imprisoned at the concentration camp Kraljevica-Rab. From 1943 to 1945 he was actively involved in the National Liberation War. After the war, between 1945 and 1947 Dr Ivan Berkeš held various functions at the state Institute of Chemical-Pharmaceutical Production in Belgrade, serving as the assistant director and later director of this Institute. In the period of 1947–1948 he worked as a scientific advisor for the Reparation Committee in Budapest, after which he rejoined the staff of the Institute of Chemistry of the Faculty of Medicine in Zagreb, where he worked until 1953. Between 1953 and 1960 Dr Ivan Berkeš taught at the Medical Faculty in Skopje, where he had been elected as an Associate Professor of Biochemistry. In that period he formed the Biochemical Institute at this Faculty. In 1960 Dr Ivan Berkeš joined the Institute of Biochemistry of the Faculty of Pharmacy in Belgrade. He was elected Senior Professor of Medical Biochemistry in 1964, and remained at this faculty, as a long-term director of the Biochemistry Institute, until his retirement in 1978.

His contribution in scientific work was first influenced by Tomislav Pinter, who explained to him about how analytical and physical chemistry worked. In 1931, with the help of professor Milo Mladenovic, he then became more interested in preparative organic chemistry and Pregl’s micro-analysis. After that, he focused on determining the functional groups of polyterpene acid in a-elemi and b-elemonic acids. This work led to the first papers about the new derivatives of dihydro- and dribromineelemonic acid, and di- and tetrazonide. With the help of Dr Pinter, he focused more about inorganic analytics.

He was the one who created a basis for electrophoresis. This technique became a main focus on clinical biochemistry. Due to financial problems to use the large apparatus in the lab, Dr Berkeš introduced some methods of solutions for paper electrophoresis. Later then, he was one of the greatest investigators in this field and his works were cited in everything that dealt with this topic.

Besides many applications of this electrophoresis, the most interesting study was of nephritic syndrome in children in 1952. Dr Berkeš spent several years developing “Thiol Function” in Serbia which led to his achievement in determining the activity of enzyme dimethyleethine: homocysteine methylferase.

He spent most of his time doing methodological research in biochemistry and enzymology. He became more and more interested in enzyme and finally ended up with this famous book “General and Medical Enzymology”. He was a tutor for 18 years during the time he was in Belgrade. More than 150 students under his guidance became biochemists who specialized in my different fields. Throughout his life, he had published many books and articles all over the world.

He authored over 200 papers in international and national journals, as well as of several books.

Upon his death, in 1997, his former students gathered in the Society of Medical Biochemists of Serbia, established the Scientific Foundation "Professor Ivan Berkeš". The Foundation traditionally awards the best students graduated at the Faculty of Pharmacy University of Belgrade and organize the Annual Scientific Conference where the doctoral dissertations defended in the field of medical biochemistry during the past year are presented.


Biochem, J.Med, . "Journal of Medical Biochemistry." Journal of Medical Biochemistry. 30.2 (june2011): 160-166. Print.