Honoring Three U Innovators

April 1, 2015
Abstract of light-reflecting fibers radiating from a central area like a flower, with unfocused droplets of blue, green, and pink.

The University recently honored three of its top innovators, who are laying a path toward a better future. The three are:

  • Daniel Voytas, who has devised a way to correct defective genes or insert new ones with surgical precision. Called TALENS, the technology could be used to safely engineer higher-yielding crops, such as cassava (manioc), an African staple. It may also be used someday to repair the chromosomes of people with debilitating genetic diseases.
  • Robert Vince, who led the team that invented the successful anti-HIV drug Ziagen. It works by inhibiting reverse transcriptase, the enzyme the virus uses to turn its genome into DNA that can take over the machinery of a human T cell and turn it into a factory for new viral particles.
  • Kechun Zhang, who received the Early Innovator award. He, along with colleagues Frank Bates and Marc Hillmyer, invented a rubbery, biodegradable polyester, made from glucose, that is the first economically viable product of its kind. It could replace petroleum-based plastics, rubber, and other materials that persist in, and damage, the environment. The new materials could also be used for arterial stents, chewing gum, and films laid over agricultural fields to protect them from freezing.