Wyss Institute core faculty member, James J. Collins, Ph.D., has received the 2011 World Technology Award for Biotechnology in recognition of his work in synthetic biology and antibiotic drug discovery. The awards are presented each year by the World Technology Network (WTN) to the most outstanding innovators across a range of sectors in the technology arena.
The awards, which were presented during a ceremony at the United Nations, are given to those individuals in 20 categories and those companies or organizations in 10 categories that have been judged to be doing innovative work with the greatest likely long-term significance in their fields.
Among his many activities at the Wyss, Collins is developing innovative ways to reprogram organisms, particularly bacteria, to perform desired tasks, such as attacking tumors and guiding development of stem cells. These programmed bacteria could lead to cheaper drugs and much more effective treatments for antibiotic-resistant infections and diseases. The work is part of the new field of synthetic biology, which Jim cofounded by combining science and engineering to construct biological circuits that can program organisms, much like we program computers now.
The WTN is a global meeting ground and virtual think tank whose members are focused on the business and science of bringing important emerging technologies of all types (from biotech to new materials, from IT to new energy sources) to the market. The approximately 1,000 members of the WTN, representing more than 60 countries, have been judged by their peers to be the top innovators in the technology world. As a WTN award winner, Collins was also inducted into this elite group.
In addition to his leading role at the Wyss Institute, he is a Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Boston University and an Investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. He has received many awards and honors, including his recent election as a member of the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) on the basis of his contributions to synthetic biology and engineered gene networks. Election to the NAE is among the highest professional distinctions accorded to an engineer.