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$1.6 million gift in honors director of Waksman Institute of Microbiology

The Rutgers University Board of Governors today approved the creation of the Joachim Messing Endowed Chair in Molecular Genetics.

Joachim Messing
Joachim Messing, director of the Waksman Institute for Microbiology
Photo: Nick Romanenko

The intent of this endowed chair – named in honor of the director of the Waksman Institute of Microbiology, Joachim Messing – is to recognize, retain and recruit molecular genetic scholars and researchers to teach at Rutgers’ Waksman Institute.

“This esteemed position will attract the most outstanding scientific scholars in the field of molecular genetics while at the same time strengthening the university’s academic specialties and increasing funding for leading-edge research,” said Rutgers-New Brunswick Chancellor Richard Edwards.

The new endowed chair is made possible by gifts totaling $1.6 million from the Michael Seul and Daniel Vapnek Endowed Faculty Research Fund, alumni Blaine Benedict and the late Alvin Benedict, and Messing, who was named the Selman Waksman Endowed Chair in Molecular Genetics in 2009. Seul and Vapnek are co-founders of BioArray Solutions based in Warren, N.J., scientists and longtime colleagues and friends of Messing.

These funds are part of the recently completed 18-chair challenge funded by an anonymous gift – the largest gift from an individual donor in the university’s history – to recruit and retain outstanding faculty in a wide range of academic disciplines, including business education and the sciences. For every $1.5 million raised for an endowed chair that met the challenge donor’s criteria, that donor pledged an additional $1.5 million in matching funds.

“We are honored and extremely grateful for their generosity and vision,” Edwards said. “This gift will enable scientists to make breakthroughs that will help people around the world.”

Messing, who became famous for a genetic engineering technique used in laboratories to create plants that have produced disease-resistant crops considered crucial to feeding the world’s population and drugs like Erythropoietin (Epo) used to treat cancer patients, donated $50,000 as seed money for founding the new chair from prize money he received as the recipient of the 2013 Wolf Prize in Agriculture.

He has long believed that scientific advances occur when information is shared without restrictions – providing a blueprint for cracking the genetic code of humans and plants like rice, corn and wheat to his fellow scientists almost 35 years ago instead of filing for a patent.  When it came to giving away his Wolf Prize money for a new Rutgers chair in molecular genetics, Messing felt the same way.

"Endowed chairs are an important tool to strengthen the research in our Institute and I was pleased to be able to facilitate this through a prize won with scientific accomplishments," said Messing, university distinguished professor of molecular biology in academic affairs.


For media inquiries contact Robin Lally at 848-932-0557 or rlally@ucm.rutgers.edu