David came to Calico from a prestigious academic career including Princeton University, where he was director of the Lewis-Sigler Institute and where he remains the Anthony B. Evnin Professor of Genomics, Emeritus. At Princeton, he established a new introductory science curriculum that combines biology, physics, chemistry, and computer science. David was chairman of genetics at Stanford University and taught at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. David served as vice president, science, at Genentech from 1987-1990. He was educated at Harvard (A.B.) and the University of Michigan (Ph.D.).
Among his awards are the Eli Lilly Award (1978), the Genetics Society Medal (1988), the American Society for Human Genetics Allen Award (1989), the Rosenstiel Award, 1992, the Gruber Prize in Genetics (2003), the Albany Medical Center Prize (2010), the Dan David Prize (2012), the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences (2013), the Double Helix Medal (2015) and the 2020 Thomas Hunt Morgan Medal from the Genetics Society of America.
David contributed to the discovery of transposons in bacteria and an understanding of their physical and genetic properties. He devised genetic methods to study the eukaryotic cytoskeleton in yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae), notably general ways of detecting gene interactions. In 1980, he made theoretical contributions to human genetics by suggesting, with collaborators, a way to map human disease genes with DNA polymorphisms called restriction fragment length polymorphisms (RFLPs). This became a cornerstone of the new science of genomics. He later founded the Saccharomyces Genome Database (with J. Michael Cherry) and applied DNA microarray technology (with Patrick O. Brown) to study genome-wide gene expression, notably defining thereby clinically significant subtypes of human tumors. Most recently, he has been devising and using genome-scale methods for studying system-level regulation of gene expression and gene interactions.