Dr. Bishop received his undergraduate degree from Gettysburg College and his M.D. from Harvard Medical School. Harvard provided Bishop with his first research experience and introduced him to the study of animal viruses. Bishop completed his clinical training at Massachusetts General Hospital and pursued a research fellowship at the National Institutes of Health. In 1968, he accepted a faculty position at the University of California, San Francisco and remains there to this day.
At UCSF, Bishop began to study Rous sarcoma virus. He was soon joined by Harold Varmus. Together, they made the seminal discovery that retroviruses can hijack genes that control normal cell growth and convert them to cancer causing oncogenes. Bishop and Varmus were honored with the 1989 Nobel Prize in Medicine or Physiology for this research.
Bishop served as chancellor of UCSF from 1998-2009. He is involved in many aspects of research advocacy and he continues to enjoy running his research lab and teaching students at UCSF.