Dan Voytas recognized for connecting research to marketplace

CBS researcher who developed a precise gene-modification technique receives University’s inaugural Entrepreneurial Researcher Award.

Dan Voytas (Genetics, Cell Biology and Development), director of the Center for Genome Engineering, received the U of M’s first Entrepreneurial Researcher Award at an event in December. The award recognizes a faculty member or researcher who displays an exemplary entrepreneurial spirit by their initiative to not only innovate new technologies but to also move those technologies from the university laboratory to the market.

“It’s really rewarding to see ideas developed in the lab have a broader impact,” says Voytas. “It’s been remarkable to see how quickly things have developed in the genome engineering field and to be part of that.” The researcher notes that getting involved in bringing a new approach to the marketplace has been both demanding and rewarding, creating a feedback loop that has enriched his research program.

Voytas is chief scientific officer of Cellectis Plant Sciences, a subsidiary of the French biotechnology company Cellectis. The company produces and uses TALENs (transcription activator-like effector nucleases), a genome-engineering technology created by Voytas and a colleague at Iowa State University to modify specific genes in a cell. Science named the gene-modification technique one of 2012's top scientific breakthroughs.