Genomic Leaders Receive 2001 Biotechnology Heritage Award

  • Contact: Debbie Strickland
    (202) 962-9200
    dstrickland@bio.org

    Scott Lockledge
    Chemical Heritage Foundation
    (215) 925-2222,
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PHILADELPHIA, June 13, 2001 – The Chemical Heritage Foundation (CHF) and the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) have awarded the Biotechnology 2001 Heritage Award to Francis S. Collins, director of the National Human Genome Research Institute; and J. Craig Venter, president of Celera Genomics, for their key roles in the sequencing of the human genome.

The annual award, which will be presented at the BIO 2001 International Convention and Exhibition, recognizes individuals who have made significant contributions to the development of biotechnology through discovery, innovation, and public understanding.

“We are thrilled to present the Biotechnology Heritage Award to Collins and Venter for their pioneering work,” said Arnold Thackray, president of CHF. “This prize represents our efforts to record the seminal moments in the development of biotechnology,” he added.

When these institutions, led by Collins and Venter, published the human genome in June of 2000, it marked a milestone for biology, biochemistry, biotechnology, and the pharmaceutical sciences. The determination of the precise sequence of the four chemical bases of DNA along human chromosomes opened up virtually limitless possibilities for science and technology.

Future analysis of the human genome will allow researchers to identify new genes, along with their roles in health and disease. Moreover, the sequence of the human genome holds great promise to become, in the words of Nobel laureate and Caltech president David Baltimore, “an engine of pharmaceutical discovery.”

About Francis S. Collins

Collins is the director of the National Human Genome Research Institute and chief of Genetic and Molecular Biology at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). In 1992, Collins assumed leadership of the Human Genome Project—the publicly funded effort to sequence the human genome using the clone-based physical mapping approach. Before directing the Human Genome Project, Collins was professor of Internal Medicine and Human Genetics and chief of Medical Genetics at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Medical School. Collins’s research on “positional cloning” allowed for the identification of genes responsible for diseases, including those for cystic fibrosis and Huntington’s disease. He earned his Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry at Yale in 1974, and his M.S. from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, in 1977.

About J. Craig Venter

Venter is president of Celera Genomics, senior vice president of Applera (Celera’s parent company, formerly named PE Corporation), and a trustee of The Institute of Genomic Research, a non-profit organization he founded in 1992.

After establishing Celera in 1998, Venter led the effort to sequence the human genome using the whole-genome shotgun sequencing approach. The Institute of Genomic Research produced the first complete genome of an organism, the Haemophilus influenzae bacterium. Venter earned his Ph.D. in Physiology and Pharmacology from the University of California, San Diego, in 1975. After serving on the faculty of the State University of New York, Buffalo, as professor of Pharmacology and then professor of Biochemistry, he was a section chief with the NIH’s Institute of Neurological Diseases and Stroke from 1984 to 1992.

CHF and the History of Biotechnology

The enabling technologies of human genome sequencing date back to the 1950s when an ultracentrifuge pioneered by Beckman Instruments automated the process of separating, recording, and identifying amino acids in DNA. Beckman Instruments was founded by Arnold O. Beckman, a Caltech professor whose innovations led him to be known as the “father of scientific instrumentation.”

Beckman’s career eventually turned philanthropic and his endowment to CHF enabled the Biomolecular Sciences Initiative (BIMOSI) project – aimed to document and advance the history of the biotech revolution “in the making.” Through the BIMOSI project, CHF published A Guide to the Human Genome Project for teachers, journalists, and others who needed a concise introduction to the topic. BIMOSI also brought together industry leaders for a debate in the 1997 landmark symposium, “The Emergence of Biotechnology: DNA to Genentech,” and spawned the critical publication Private Science: Biotechnology and the Rise of the Molecular Sciences.

The Chemical Heritage Foundation

CHF was founded in 1982 by joint action of the American Chemical Society and the American Institute of Chemical Engineers. The foundation seeks to advance the heritage of the chemical and molecular sciences by collecting and disseminating information about historical resources; encouraging research, scholarship, and popular writing; publishing resource guides and historical materials; conducting oral histories; creating traveling exhibits and other educational resource materials; and taking other appropriate steps to make known the achievements of chemical scientists and the chemical process industries. For more information on the Chemical Heritage Foundation and its programs, visit our Web site at http://www.chemheritage.org.

The Biotechnology Industry Organization

BIO represents more than 950 biotechnology companies, academic institutions, state biotechnology centers and related organizations in all 50 U.S. states and 33 other nations. BIO members are involved in the research and development of health care, agricultural, industrial and environmental biotechnology products.

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Visit CHF at Booth #1518 during the conference.

About BIO
BIO is the world's largest trade association representing biotechnology companies, academic institutions, state biotechnology centers and related organizations across the United States and in more than 30 other nations. BIO members are involved in the research and development of innovative healthcare, agricultural, industrial and environmental biotechnology products. BIO also produces the BIO International Convention, the world’s largest gathering of the biotechnology industry, along with industry-leading investor and partnering meetings held around the world. BIOtechNOW is BIO's blog chronicling “innovations transforming our world” and the BIO Newsletter is the organization’s bi-weekly email newsletter. Subscribe to the BIO Newsletter.