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Press Release

Chriss Swaney

For immediate release:
October 26, 2005

Carnegie Mellon Alum and Genome-Sequencing Expert To Speak at Chemical Engineering's 100th Anniversary

PITTSBURGH—Carnegie Mellon University alumnus and CuraGen Corp. founder Jonathan Rothberg will speak at 2:45 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 27, in the Singleton Room at Roberts Hall of Engineering at Carnegie Mellon. Winner of a prestigious technology award for devising a way to analyze the makeup of millions of DNA strands simultaneously, Rothberg will talk about the next-generation genome-sequencing machines.

"The foundation I obtained as a chemical engineer from Carnegie Mellon has allowed me to attack any problem," Rothberg said.

And the problem Rothberg selected involved gene-sequencing, the process of unlocking an individual's DNA to help doctors quickly identify a patient's individual genetic makeup and craft specific treatments for everything from cancer to cystic fibrosis.

The genome-sequencing technique from Rothberg's 454 Life Sciences unit of Branford, Conn.- based CuraGen Corp. was selected this week as the gold medal winner in The Wall Street Journal's 2005 Technology Innovation Awards competition. More than 700 entries in 12 categories were judged on whether the innovation represented a breakthrough from conventional ideas or methods in its field.

"We have entered an important year in the history of chemical engineering, and having our outstanding alums come back and share their successes with us gives us pride and inspiration to continue our innovative tradition of collaborative and multidisciplinary research," said Andy Gellman, head of Carnegie Mellon's Chemical Engineering Department.

Rothberg, who graduated in 1985 from Carnegie Mellon's Chemical Engineering Department, said he found his inspiration in microelectronics. Just as semiconductor designers were able to squeeze millions of transistors on a single chip, Rothberg's gene-sequencing "chip" can analyze more than 20 million base pairs at a time. Industry analysts report that his method is not only 100 times faster, but is less costly than earlier gene-sequencing methods.

In addition to Rothberg, the Chemical Engineering 100th anniversary will include talks by other distinguished alums including Tom McConomy, the former CEO and board chairman of Calgon Carbon Corp.; Paul McKenzie, vice president of the Worldwide Medicines Group of Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.; and E. Kears Pollock, former executive vice president, office of the chief executive at PPG Industries.


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