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church george


Dr. George Church is Professor of Genetics at Harvard Medical School and Director of NIH-CEGS and DOE-GTL Genomics Centers. He has pioneered technology innovations early in the development of key fields in chemistry and biomedicine with 48 Patents granted and pending. As part of technology transfer to the commercial sector he has founded 12 companies and served as scientific advisor for several others. In 1976, his crystallographic software lead to the first high-resolution folded-RNA structure (a decade before similar structures important for ribozymes, aptamers, and RNAi). That software is still in use 30 years later. He wrote the first automated DNA sequencing software (8 years ahead of other efforts); variations on that software figured into commercial efforts in 1980-1991. Between 1977 and 1984, working with Walter Gilbert (1980 Nobel Prize in Chemistry), he developed the first direct genomic sequencing method. That technology helped inspire the Human Genome Project (HGP). Of a handful of advocates, he was the one who participated in all three meetings in 1984-5 that lead to the HGP start in 1987 at DOE and 1990 at NIH. He obtained the first HGP sequencing grant and 3 years later helped found the Stanford, MIT, and CRI Genome Centers. The CRI group (later GTC, then Agencourt) was the only commercial production group of the 7 US HGP centers. GTC completed the first genome sequence sold commercially (the human pathogen, H. pylori, in 1994, the year before the first published genome sequence). In 1983-1988, Dr. Church invented the broadly applied concepts of molecular multiplexing and tags, variations of which are present in many high-throughput assays today. A homologous-recombination method from his group is one of the most broadly used, distributed to more than 1000 research groups. He began development of oligonucleotide-array DNA synthesizers in 1990 and has co-developed technologies for innovative array assays with most of the major companies (Affymetrix, Nimblegen, and Xeotron). Recently these have been extended from analysis to synthesis, i.e. assembly and error-correction of genes from multimegabase-scale chips and hence initiating 'synthetic biology' as a new engineering discipline. His group is synthesizing bacterial genomes with new genetic codes, new protein types, and thereby immune to all existing viruses. Dr. Church helped develop and commercialize some of the first "single-molecule" and microfluidics technologies, most recently "Polony" DNA sequencing and has been championing its development for $1000 human genome sequences. This, together with the advances above for unprecedented manipulations of DNA in cells, brings practical personalized medicine considerably closer, along with applications to energy, the environment, and smart materials.


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