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(Boston) – Boston University School of Engineering Prof. James Collins, co-director of the BU Center for Biodynamics and considered the father of synthetic biology, today was awarded the university’s 2012 Innovator of the Year award which recognizes a faculty member whose cutting-edge research and ideas lead to the formation of companies that benefit society at large.
BU Provost and Chief Academic Officer Jean Morrison presented this year’s Innovator of the Year award at “Tech, Drugs and Rock & Roll” event — BU’s annual networking party for Boston area inventors, entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, tech-industry professionals and academic scientists involved in technology transfer.
“Professor Collins is an entrepreneurial scientist, whose practical approach to science has led to the formation of Sample6 Technologies, a start-up company intent on using engineered bacteriaphage for detecting harmful bacteria in the food and healthcare industry,” said Morrison. “His accomplishments in the past year include 10 peer-reviewed papers published, four invention disclosures, five patent filings, $2.3 million in research funding and $5.6 million invested in Sample6.”
The Boston University Innovator of the Year award highlights translational research at BU by recognizing an entrepreneurial faculty member and the potential for commercialization and/or wider adoption of their inventions. It also encourages faculty to become entrepreneurial while promoting role models who can inspire graduate students to pursue entrepreneurial careers.
Collins’ lab is focused on using synthetic biology – the melding biology and engineering to create novel biological entities — to construct gene networks with a particular focus on curing infectious diseases. It also is using network biology to study antibiotics and the emergence of antibiotic resistant bacteria. With this technology, Collins has founded two companies: Sample6 Technologies and EnBiotix.
“Jim has been a prolific academic entrepreneur but this past year was especially productive making it easy to select him as the Innovator of Year,” said Vinit Nijhawan, managing director of the BU Office of Technology Development.
Collins is an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and a William F. Warren Distinguished Professor, University Professor, Professor of Biomedical Engineering, and Professor of Medicine at Boston University. He is also a core founding faculty member of the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University. His patented technologies have been licensed by over 25 biotech, pharmaceutical and medical devices companies. His awards and honors include a Rhodes scholarship, a MacArthur “Genius” award, an NIH Director’s Pioneer Award, the World Technology Award in Biotechnology, as well as numerous teaching awards. He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and the American Academy of Arts & Sciences.
Founded in 1839, Boston University is an internationally recognized private research university with more than 33,000 students participating in undergraduate, graduate, and professional programs. Along with Boston Medical Center, Boston University receives about $500 million annually in sponsored research funding.