History of the Daniel I. C. Wang Lecture on the Frontiers of Biotechnology
The Daniel I. C. Wang Lecture, previously the Frontiers of Biotechnology Lectureship, was established in 1999 through a generous donation from Dr. Noubar Afeyan to acknowledge the enabling technologies and developments that have sustained the growth of biotechnology and life sciences. Some of these include bioprocess engineering (upstream and downstream processes), bioanalytical developments, advanced and new instruments, novel delivery concepts, biomedical devices, rational drug design, computational methods, bioinformatics, and information technology. It is the intent of this Lectureship to recognize and honor achievements on the “frontiers of biotechnology” and the distinguished scientists and engineers responsible for them. The lecture was renamed in 2014 to honor Institute Professor Daniel I.C. Wang, a pioneer and leader in the field of biochemical and biological engineering.
The Wang Legacy
Daniel I.C. Wang (1936-2020) was Institute Professor of Chemical Engineering at MIT and the Temasek Professor at the National University of Singapore. He obtained his BS in chemical engineering and MS in biochemical engineering both from MIT. His PhD was from the University of Pennsylvania in chemical engineering. He began his career as a faculty member at MIT in 1965. Professor Wang spent two years in the US Army at the US Army Biological Laboratories at Fort Detrick, Maryland, from 1963 to 1965. He was also the visiting Fairchild Professor at CalTech.
Professor Wang’s research was in the areas of recombinant protein production using Escherichia coli to increase protein expression by engineering and genetic manipulations. These include the use of magnetically coated fluorocarbons to increase oxygen transfer and two-phase aqueous micellar systems metal chelate affinity purification of proteins. He also performed studies in animal cell culture with emphasis in the increased production of recombinant proteins and monoclonal antibodies. These include the understanding of cell death using proteomics to profile the different cell populations. In his animal cell culture research, he worked to increase the quality of therapeutic proteins. Lastly, he had a program in the stabilization of proteins using quantum mechanics to simulate various events leading to protein inactivation. His past research had been on new concepts in bioreactor design and operations, oxygen transfer in fermentors, fluid shear damage of animal cells, enzyme technology, membrane filtration and renewable resource utilization. His most recent research dealt with biocatalysis in chiral chemical synthesis, renewable resource utilization for biofuels production and microbial desulfurization.
He is the recipient of various awards. These include the elections to the National Academy of Engineering, American Academy of Arts and Sciences, American Institute of Biological Engineering, Academia Sinica (Republic of China) and the International Biotechnology Institute. He has received from the American Chemical Society the M.J. Johnson Award and Dave Perlman Memorial Lecture Award. From the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, he has received the Food, Pharmaceutical and Bioengineering Award, the Institute Lecturer and the William H. Walker Award. He has also received the Amgen Award from the Engineering Foundation and the Asia-Pacific Distinguished Biochemical Award. He has received honorary doctoral degrees from Hong Kong University of Science and Technology and Catholic University, Valparaiso, Chile and Honorary Professor from Peking Union Medical College. He has delivered plenary and keynote lectures throughout the world including Chile, England, Germany, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, People’s Republic of China, New Zealand, Singapore and Taiwan.
Professor Wang co-authored 5 books, published over 250 papers, and secured 15 patents.
Noubar Afeyan, Ph.D.
Noubar Afeyan is founder and CEO of Flagship Pioneering, a unique enterprise that systematically makes breakthrough, life-science innovations which improve human health and sustainability. He is currently a Lecturer at Harvard Business School and from 2000 – 2016 was a Senior Lecturer at MIT where he taught courses on technology-entrepreneurship and innovation. During his 30-year career as inventor, entrepreneur and CEO, Dr. Afeyan co-founded and helped build over 40 successful startups. He was founder and CEO of PerSeptive Biosystems, a leader in the bio-instrumentation field that grew to over $100M in annual sales within six years from its first sales. After PerSeptive’s acquisition by Perkin Elmer/Applera Corporation in 1998, he was senior vice president and chief business officer of Applera, where he initiated and oversaw the creation of Celera Genomics.
Currently, Noubar serves on a number of public and private company boards including, Evelo BioSciences, Kaleido BioSciences, Moderna Therapeutics, Rubius Therapeutics, and Seres Therapeutics. Previously, he was a member of the founding team, director and investor in several highly successful ventures including Chemgenics Pharmaceuticals (acquired by Millennium Pharmaceuticals), Color Kinetics (acquired by Philips), Adnexus Therapeutics (acquired by Bristol-Myers Squibb) and Affinnova (acquired by AC Nielsen).
Noubar is a member of the corporation (board of trustees) of MIT and a member of the board of overseers of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. He also serves on the boards of the Armenian General Benevolent Union, the IDeA Foundation and the UWC Dilijan International School. Previously, he was a co-founder and board member of the National Competitiveness Foundation of Armenia, a private-public partnership dedicated to promoting economic development in the former Soviet Republic of Armenia. In 2008, he received the Ellis Island Medal of Honor, an award granted to outstanding Americans who have distinguished themselves as United States citizens and who have enabled their ancestry groups to maintain their identities while becoming integral parts of American life. He was a Great Immigrant honoree of the Carnegie Corporation in 2016. In 2017, he received the Golden Door Award, an honor granted by the International Institute of New England that recognizes a U.S. citizen of foreign birth who has made outstanding contributions to America society.
Noubar is engaged in several philanthropic initiatives. In 2015, he co-founded the 100 LIVES Initiative, which commemorated the 100th anniversary of the start of the Armenian genocide and created a remembrance project to locate and preserve stories of both survivors and rescuers from the genocide. In 2016, 100 LIVES inaugurated the Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity, an annual award given to an individual who has faced personal risk to enable others to survive.