The Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO) has named Dr. J. Craig Venter as the recipient of its 2016 George Washington Carver Award for innovation in industrial biotechnology. The award honors the legacy of George Washington Carver, who was one of the founding fathers of the chemurgy movement, a branch of applied chemistry focused on manufacturing industrial products from raw agricultural materials. Industrial biotechnology is the modern-day equivalent of Carver’s vision for chemurgy, and the annual award honors an individual for carrying on Carver’s legacy.
“It is an honor to receive the prestigious George Washington Carver Award from BIO and to be represented among such an esteemed group of past winners. Synthetic Genomics and Synthetic Biology have the opportunity to profoundly impact food, pharmaceutical, and chemical manufacturing and I am pleased that by accepting this award it can help draw attention to that potential,” said Dr. Venter.
“BIO is pleased to recognize Dr. Venter for his determination to provide innovative biotech solutions to some of today’s greatest challenges in energy, nutrition, and medicine. Like George Washington Carver, Dr. Venter has developed technology that enables sustainable economic growth through use of renewable resources. Dr. Venter’s innovative achievements can help us meet global energy and nutrition needs while tackling the problem of global climate change resulting from increasing greenhouse concentrations in the atmosphere,” said Brent Erickson, executive vice president for BIO’s Industrial & Environmental Section.
“Dr. Venter’s commitment to this industry matches that of George Washington Carver. Throughout his career, he has used his vast knowledge of biotechnology to break through barriers in science and medicine that were once thought to be impenetrable. This makes him worthy of the recognition attached to this award,” said Joe Hrdlicka, executive director of the Iowa Biotechnology Association and sponsor of this year’s award.
Dr. Craig Venter will receive the award and give a plenary session talk at the upcoming BIO World Congress on Industrial Biotechnology plenary luncheon session on April 18, 2016 at the San Diego Convention Center in San Diego, California. A special selection committee chose him for opening new outlooks on impactful applications in a bio-based economy and for industrial sustainability.
Dr. Venter’s contributions to the sequencing of Haemophilous influenzae in 1995 and of the human genome in 2000 stand as two major milestones of biology’s new era and illustrate how he transformed the biological sciences from a concept-driven scientific pursuit into a tool-driven scientific revolution.
In 2010, Venter furthered the new field of synthetic biology when his team at the J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI) synthesized the first self-replicating bacterial cell of Mycoplasma mycoides. More recently, he and his team are working to create a “minimal cell,” which will serve as the work-horse of unimaginable industrial applications. Synthetic biology is an important new tool in the continued development of green chemistry, bio-based products, and sustainable chemicals and fuels. Venter also pioneered genomic work in the field of energy from algae that has contributed to knowledge about the challenges in developing economical and scalable algae biofuels.
As an academic scientist and an entrepreneur, Dr. Venter has formed and led several organizations including The Institute for Genomic Research (TIGR), JCVI, Synthetic Genomics Inc. (SGI), and his most recent company Human Longevity, which promises to revolutionize health care practices and delivery. In all his undertakings he has formed and led multiple teams that have risen to the scientific challenges because of his unique abilities to motivate and inspire.