From left: Perry Hackett, Dan Voytas, Michael O'Connor
The Hackett Fund for Genome Engineering, launched this summer, was awarded to Dan Voytas, a professor in the Department of Genetics, Cell Biology and Development (GCD), and longtime director of the University’s Center for Genome Engineering. Voytas received the award in recognition of his leadership both at the University and within the broader field of genome engineering. The award will provide ongoing support for activities and initiatives within the Center for Genome Engineering.
“Dan is highly deserving of this award,” says GCD Department Head Michael O’Connor. “He is one of the most highly regarded members of our faculty and is known worldwide for his efforts in genome engineering.”
Perry Hackett launched the fund using royalties from a $100-million licensing deal with M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Texas, which is using his Sleeping Beauty Transposon technology to develop new cancer treatments. Hackett was an original founder of the Center for Transposon Research, precursor to the Center for Genome Engineering, which was renamed two decades ago in an effort to broaden the scope of the research to include gene therapy, gene discovery and precision gene editing using TALEN (transcription activator-like effector nucleases), a technique developed by Voytas, as well as techniques such as CRISPR-Cas9.
In addition to his work with the center, Voytas is a co-founder of Calyxt, a biotechnology company focused on developing crops with healthier characteristics through targeted modification of plant genomes using TALEN technology. Science named the gene-modification technique one of 2012's top scientific breakthroughs.
Voytas is also a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and recipient of the University’s inaugural Entrepreneurial Researcher Award.
Watch a short video featuring Voytas talking about TALENs precision gene-editing technique.