Public Release:  American Society for Microbiology honors George M. Church

American Society for Microbiology

The 2009 American Society for Microbiology (ASM) Promega Biotechnology Research Award is being presented to George M. Church, Ph.D., professor of genetics, Harvard Medical School, and director of the Lipper Center for Computational Genetics in Boston. This award recognizes outstanding contributions to the application of biotechnology through fundamental microbiological research and development.

Described as a "truly unique" and "extraordinarily creative" scientist, Dr. Church's forward thinking and wide-range of interests have resulted in numerous new technologies that have led to major advances in the microbiological sciences. He earned his Ph.D. from Harvard University and for three decades, he has been a leader in biotechnology and its application. The original methods for DNA sequencing were invented in 1977. In 1984, Church proposed "multiplex sequencing." A radical alternative, it was a manual, highly parallel sequencing method that was more productive than current methods. This technology, though never industrialized, was used to sequence the first microbial genome, Helicobacter pylori and the archaeal genome, Methanobacterium theimactotrophicum.

Dr. Church's lab discovered novel methods of DNA sequence analysis including polonies on slides read by fluorescent mononucleotides and polymerase and polonies on beads read by fluorescent oligonucleotides and ligase. The commercialization and adoption of this "polony" concept led to the second generation of sequencing technologies. It has transformed the way genomes are analyzed. Others are noted for their contributions, but Church is assigned the central role for his enabling technology. He has licensed patents on these methods to almost all the current DNA sequencing instrumentation companies. The second generation approach led, in part, to the foundation of the field of Synthetic Biology.

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The Promega Biotechnology Research Award will be presented during the 109th General Meeting of the ASM, May 17-21, 2009 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. ASM is the world's oldest and largest life science organization and has more than 43,000 members worldwide. ASM's mission is to advance the microbiological sciences and promote the use of scientific knowledge for improved health and economic and environmental well-being.

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