Since his arrival at Rutgers in 1985, Jo Messing has initiated research activity on computational and structural biology and further emphasis on molecular genetics of the regulation of gene expression and biomolecular interactions. In the eighties, he provided incubator space for two Biotechnology centers at Rutgers, one in Medicine and one in Agriculture. Subsequently, he also founded two new departments at Rutgers and served as the first chair, the Department of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry and the Department of Genetics.
Prof Messing is also involved in the Plant Genome Initiative at Rutgers, which has contributed to the sequencing of the maize, sorghum, and the rice genome. Besides maize, sorghum, and rice, they have also contributed to the sequencing of the Brachypodium and Spirodela genomes.
Jo Messing is a pharmacist by training, but has specialized in molecular biology during his PhD-research at the LM University of Munich and the Max-Planck Institute of Biochemistry.
In the late seventies and early eighties, Jo Messing and his colleagues developed the shotgun DNA sequencing method with single and paired synthetic universal primers. The method is based on fragmenting DNA into small sizes, purifying them by cloning, and defining the start of sequencing with a short oligonucleotide. Because fragmentation produces overlapping fragments, sequences can be concatenated by overlapping sequence information, thereby reconstructing contiguous sequences (contigs), which was first exemplified by the complete structure of a plant DNA virus. His cloning vectors were also used to develop the method for oligonucleotide site-directed mutagenesis. DNA cloning, shotgun sequencing and site-directed mutagenesis became widely used to sequence large DNA molecules like human chromosomes and to engineer genes and proteins. These methods are freely available, have been the cornerstone of the biotechnology industry and are cited in many patents.
At Rutgers, his plant genetics initiatives are directed towards the evolution of plant chromosomes and gene duplication. He also researches non-Mendelian inheritance. Applied research in these genomic sequences have permitted his laboratory to study the organization and evolution of the genes that control the supply of proteins for nutrition and as sources of biofuel. Projects with maize focused on upgrading the nutritional value of corn by genetically modifying corn to make methionine and lysine in the seeds, two essential amino acids that people and livestock need in their diet. Investigating the genetic properties of sorghum has led to a natural sorghum variant with increased sugar in the stem allows the plant to be used for both biofuel and feed. Most recent initiatives investigating the properties of spirodela (duckweed) has led to its discovery as an alternative bio-energy source.
1975-1978: Research Fellow, Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry, Munich, Germany
1978-1980: Research Associate in Bacteriology, University of California, Davis, CA
1980-1982: Assistant Professor of Biochemistry, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, MN
1982-1984: Associate Professor of Biochemistry, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, MN
1984-1985: Professor of Biochemistry, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, MN
1985–present: University Professor of Molecular Biology, Rutgers University
1988–present: Director, Waksman Institute, Rutgers University
Awards and honors
- 1981-1990 World's most-cited scientist
- 1985-1986 The most cited 1985 paper in the life sciences
- 2002 Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science
- 2004 USDA Secretary’s Honor Award (US Rice Genome)
- 2007 Member of the National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina (Germany)
- 2013 Wolf Prize in Agriculture
- 2014 Elected to the 100 Most Influential People in New Jersey in Food Category 
- 2014 Promega Biotechnology Research Award of American Society of Microbiology 
- "The Waksman Institute homepage". Waksman.rutgers.edu. Retrieved 2010-11-10.
- "The History of the Waksman Institute of Microbiology". Waksman.rutgers.edu. Retrieved 2010-11-10.
- "The Waksman Institute’s Annual Report 2006-2007" (PDF). Retrieved 2010-11-10.
- Maize genome.org, A Website about Maize Genome Sequencing Projects
- "Graduate programs in Molecular Biosciences at Rutgers". Lifesci.rutgers.edu. Retrieved 2010-11-10.
- International Brachypodium Initiative (February 11, 2010). "Genome sequencing and analysis of the model grass Brachypodium distachyon.". Nature 463 (7282): 763–8. doi:10.1038/nature08747. PMID 20148030.
- Wang W, Messing J (February 19, 2014). "The Spirodela polyrhiza genome reveals insights into its neotenous reduction fast growth and aquatic lifestyle.". Nature Communications 5 (3311). doi:10.1038/ncomms4311. PMC 3948053. PMID 24548928.
- Messing J, Crea R, Seeburg PH (January 1981). "A system for shotgun DNA sequencing". Nucleic Acids Research 9 (2): 309–21. doi:10.1093/nar/9.2.309. PMC 326694. PMID 6259625.
- Vieira J, Messing J (October 1982). "The pUC plasmids, an M13mp7-derived system for insertion mutagenesis and sequencing with synthetic universal primers". Gene 19 (3): 259–68. doi:10.1016/0378-1119(82)90015-4. PMID 6295879.
- Larson R, Messing J (January 1982). "Apple II software for M13 shotgun DNA sequencing". Nucleic Acids Research 10 (1): 39–49. doi:10.1093/nar/10.1.39. PMC 326112. PMID 6278410.
- Gardner RC, Howarth AJ, Hahn P, Brown-Luedi M, Shepherd RJ, Messing J (June 1981). "The complete nucleotide sequence of an infectious clone of cauliflower mosaic virus by M13mp7 shotgun sequencing". Nucleic Acids Research 9 (12): 2871–88. doi:10.1093/nar/9.12.2871. PMC 326899. PMID 6269062.
- Norrander J, Kempe T, Messing J (December 1983). "Construction of improved M13 vectors using oligodeoxynucleotide-directed mutagenesis". Gene 26 (1): 101–6. doi:10.1016/0378-1119(83)90040-9. PMID 6323249.
- "Messing’s personal website at the Waksman Institute". Waksman.rutgers.edu. Retrieved 2010-11-10.
- "Jo Messing, Highly cited scientist in ISI web of Knowledge.com". Hcr3.isiknowledge.com. 2003-08-20. Retrieved 2010-11-10.
- Holden C. (October 4, 1991). "Briefings: The Hunt for Drugs From Nature". Science 254 (5028): 28. doi:10.1126/science.254.5028.28-a.
- Yanisch-Perron C, Vieira J, Messing J (1985). "Improved M13 phage cloning vectors and host strains: nucleotide sequences of the M13mp18 and pUC19 vectors". Gene 33 (1): 103–19. doi:10.1016/0378-1119(85)90120-9. PMID 2985470.
- "List of AAAS fellows". Php.aaas.org. Retrieved 2010-11-10.
- "US Rice Genome Consortium receives USDA Secretary's Honor Awards". Rgp.dna.affrc.go.jp. Retrieved 2010-11-10.
- "Rutgers’ Messing Elected to Historic European Scientific Society". Ur.rutgers.edu. Retrieved 2010-11-10.
- Wolf Prize 2013 - Agriculture
- "Inside NJ - 100 Most Influential People". nj.com. Retrieved 2014-07-07.
- "American Society of Microbiology homepage". asm.org. Retrieved 2014-07-07.
- Thinking Big, Geneticist solves problems with biotechnology, I am NJ by the Star Ledger, January 2007