Daniel Voytas, Ph.D., director of the Center for Genome Engineering at the University of Minnesota, works to push the boundaries of innovation and entrepreneurship through his work in plant science.
A recent profile in Science Magazine details Voytas’s journey from a child in rural Minnesota with a love for plants to co-creating the groundbreaking TALENs, a method of targeted genome editing in plants. This approach is more powerful and targeted than traditional genetically modified (GM) crops, and because Voytas’s process does not leave behind any foreign DNA, it avoids the GM label, as well as the stigma and regulation barriers surrounding it.
Already, TALENs has been used both within and outside of the plant world, improving livestock and animal models of disease, and saving lives by transforming human-immune cells. Voytas is highly regarded in his field for his expertise and collaboration and strives to make TALENs, and other popular gene editing technologies, such as CRISPR, available to a wide population of researchers. As the global population rises and food security becomes an increasing concern, Voytas feels a revolution in genetic editing is a matter of survival.
Voytas was awarded the inaugural Hackett Fund for Genome Engineering this summer, in recognition of his leadership at the University and within the field of genome engineering. The award will provide support for activities and initiatives within the Center for Genome Engineering.
In 2014, Voytas received an Innovation Award in the Entrepreneurial Researcher category from the Office of the Vice President for Research and Office for Technology Commercialization.