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American Society for Microbiology honors Maynard V. Olson

The 2010 American Society for Microbiology (ASM) Promega Biotechnology Research Award will be presented to Maynard V. Olson, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of Medicine and Genome Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle, for his work in genomics. Sponsored by Promega Corporation, this award honors outstanding contributions to the application of biotechnology through fundamental microbiological research and development.

Olson realized the study of complex genomes would require the separation of large DNA molecules. He developed the orthogonal-field-alternation gel electrophoresis technique which allows the separation of such molecules. He was also aware that cloning would be necessary to further characterize and manipulate these molecules. To accomplish this, he developed the YAC (yeast artificial chromosome) system. This system was immediately put to use in mapping the human genome and was also vital to the completion of the C. elegans map. It also led to the development of the BAC (bacterial artificial chromosome) cloning system which in time became a key feature in the sequencing program of the human genome.

The size and complexity of the human genome necessitated identification of positions of landmark sequences along the chromosome to guide the assembly of the entire sequence. Developments in PCR allowed him to devise the sequence tagged site (STS) strategy. It located positive clones within a YAC library by screening for PCR gene target sequences. STS mapping quickly became the basis of human genome maps. He also developed the use of multiple-complete-restriction digestion as a mapping technique which provides redundant coverage of the DNA to be mapped.

Olson has also been a force in the development of genome policy. He formulated policies that pushed the international effort for sequencing the human genome and also contributed to the development of the plan of the National Research Council's sequencing effort.

The Promega Biotechnology Research Award will be presented during the 110th General Meeting of the ASM, May 23-27, 2010 in San Diego, CA. ASM is the world's oldest and largest life science organization and has more than 43,000 members worldwide. ASM's mission is to advance the microbiological sciences and promote the use of scientific knowledge for improved health and economic and environmental well-being.


Contact: Garth Hogan
American Society for Microbiology

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