Marvin Caruthers 2009 - Iowa State University Alumni Association

Marvin Caruthers 2009


Marvin Caruthers

BS '62, Chemistry
Boulder, Colo.

A renowned professor of chemistry and biochemistry at the University of Colorado, Marvin Caruthers (’62 chemistry) is a research scientist in the field of DNA and RNA synthesis and an inventor or multiple patent holder of key enabling manufacturing techniques for the biotechnology industry.

In 1980, Caruthers and seven other research scientists founded AMGEN with three venture capital groups. AMGEN is now the largest biotechnology company in the world, with revenues of $6 billion and a market capitalization exceeding $60 billion. Caruthers’ recent activities include co-founding Array Bio-Pharma, BaroFold and miRagen Therapeutics. He serves on the boards of these companies.

He is also a co-founder of Applied Biosystems, Inc., a worldwide leader in the field of chemical synthesis of nucleic acids and the sequencing of proteins. The company marketed so-called “gene machines” based on the DNA synthesis methods developed in Caruthers’ laboratory.

As one of the most influential chemical biologists in the field today, Caruthers pioneered research in nucleic acid chemistry that resulted in new methods that are universally used for the chemical synthesis of DNA and RNA. The rapid, chemical synthesis of DNA and RNA is one of the cornerstone technologies that has fueled the development of biotechnology, basic research in biology, and pharmacology worldwide. It is required for sequencing genomes, isolating pharmaceutically useful genes such as epogen and neupogen, diagnosing diseases using DNA chips, and forensic “DNA fingerprinting.”

Caruthers’ awards are numerous. He is a Guggenheim Fellow and a member of both the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He received the National Academy of Sciences Award for Chemistry in Service to Society and the Prelog Medal in Recognition of Pioneering Work on Chemical Synthesis of DNA. And in 2006, he received the nation’s highest accolade for scientific achievement — the National Medal of Science — during a White House ceremony. He was the recipient of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences’ Citation of Merit in 2003.

In addition to his undergraduate degree in chemistry from Iowa State, Caruthers earned a Ph.D. from Northwestern University.

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