Rutgers Board of Governors Creates New Endowed Chair

Rutgers Board of Governors Creates New Endowed Chair

Joachim Messing is the first occupant of the Selman Waksman Chair in Molecular Genetics
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Selman Waksman Professor of Molecular Genetics Joachim Messing

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – The Rutgers University Board of Governors today approved the creation of the Selman Waksman Chair in Molecular Genetics and appointed University Professor Joachim Messing as the first holder of the chair, commencing April 2, 2009.

The intent of this endowed chair is to support a member of the university faculty whose work focuses on molecular genetics at the Waksman Institute of Microbiology. It has been named in honor of Rutgers’ Nobel laureate Selman Waksman.

“The appointment of Joachim Messing to this new endowed chair acknowledges the contributions he has made both to the university and his science throughout a distinguished career,” said Richard L. McCormick, president of Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. “Particularly noteworthy is the creation of the Selman Waksman Chair is being made possible through the generosity of his fellow scientists.”

Joachim Messing specialized in molecular biology during his doctoral research at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich and as a research fellow at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry. He is one of the world’s foremost experts in the genetics of corn and has been deeply involved in the rice, corn and sorghum genome sequencing projects, a reflection of his personal commitment to alleviating hunger in the developing world. In 1982, Messing and his colleagues developed the shotgun sequencing approach that represented a significant advance in methodology. It was made freely available and has seen wide usage in major undertakings such as the Human Genome Project. Messing, now director of the Waksman Institute, joined the Rutgers faculty in 1985.

The chair’s namesake, the late Selman Waksman, was a 1915 Rutgers graduate, co-discoverer of streptomycin (the first antibiotic active against tuberculosis), professor of biochemistry and microbiology at Rutgers for four decades, and winner of the 1952 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. The majority of the royalties obtained from Waksman’s discoveries were assigned for the building and support of the Waksman Institute.

The Waksman chair is being established through a contribution by Michael Seul, founder of BioArray Solutions based in Warren, N.J., and a long time colleague and friend of Professor Messing. Seul’s expertise in biophysical chemistry and image analysis is at the core of BioArray’s proprietary technology platform. Prior to founding the company, Seul worked at AT&T Bell Laboratories, where he established an internationally recognized research program with a focus on the physical chemistry of interfaces, membranes and colloidal systems. Seul, as a Rotary Foundation Fellow, attended Stanford University, from which he received his Ph.D. in biophysics.

Daniel Vapnek, a co-founder of BioArray Solutions, former chairman of the board of BioArray and an adjunct professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara, joined Seul in making a contribution to the creation of this new Waksman chair. Vapnek, who has also been an associate of Messing for decades, holds a Ph.D. in microbiology and a B.S. in zoology from the University of Miami.


Media Contact: Joseph Blumberg
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E-mail: blumberg@ur.rutgers.edu