Willem P.C. Stemmer
|Willem P. C. Stemmer|
|Alma mater||University of Wisconsin–Madison|
|Known for||DNA shuffling, Maxygen|
|Notable awards||Charles Stark Draper Prize (2011)|
Willem P. C. "Pim" Stemmer was a Dutch scientist and entrepreneur who has invented numerous biotechnologies that have led to successful products and business ventures. He was the founder and CEO of Amunix Inc., a company that creates "pharmaceutical proteins with extended dosing frequency". His other prominent inventions include DNA shuffling, now referred to as molecular breeding. He holds more than 97 patents.
Stemmer died of cancer on April 2, 2013.
Stemmer attended the Institut Montana-Zug, a boarding and day school in Zugerberg, Switzerland, in the greater Zurich area, from which he graduated in 1975. He developed an interest in biology at the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands, from which he received a doctorate in biology in 1980.
It was not until 1980, however, when he traveled to University of Wisconsin-Madison that he was introduced to molecular biology. He received a PhD from the University of Wisconsin for his work on bacterial pili and fimbriae involved in host-pathogen interactions. Afterwards, he conducted postdoctoral research with Professor Fred Blattner on phage display of random peptide libraries and antibody fragment expression in E. coli bacteria.
Stemmer founded Avidia after inventing its Avimer technology. In 1997 he founded Maxygen to commercialize the DNA shuffling, now called molecular breeding, which led to the founding of both Verdia and Codexis. Prior to Maxygen, he was a scientist at Affymax, where he invented DNA shuffling. Before that, he worked on antibody fragment engineering at Hybritech.
His current venture, Amunix, is based in Mountain View, California. Its products comprise a "clinically proven pharmaceutical payload, typically a , genetically fused to ‘XTEN’, a long, unstructured, hydrophilic protein chain", which prolongs serum half-life by "increasing the hydrodynamic radius, thus reducing kidney filtration".
Awards and recognition
In 2011 Stemmer was honored with the Charles Stark Draper Prize, the United States' top engineering honor, for the pioneering contributions to directed evolution, a "method used to engineer novel enzymes and biocatalytic processes" for various pharmaceutical and chemical products, allowing researchers to endow proteins and cells with properties that ultimately enable solutions food ingredients, pharmaceuticals, toxicology, agricultural products, and biofuels.
His portfolio of patents from Maxygen was ranked as the #1 portfolio in pharma/biotech for 2003 by MIT's Technology Review, and #2 in a review of the 150 largest pharma and biotechnology companies by The Wall Street Journal in 2006. He received the Doisy Award in 2000 and the David Perlman Award in 2001. In 2005 he won the NASDAQ-sponsored VCynic Syndicate, a "syndicate of venture capitalists" that rated business case studies based on historical, current, and mock companies.
- "Willem P. C. Stemmer". National Academy of Engineering. Retrieved 27 January 2013.
- "Willem Stemmer Obituary". San Jose Mercury News/San Mateo County Times. 21 April 2013. Retrieved 21 May 2013.
- Sabu, Priya (7 March 2011). "NAE’s 2011 Charles Stark Draper Award Winner: Willem P. C. Stemmer, Directed Evolution Pioneer". BioTechniques. Retrieved 27 January 2013.
- "The VCynic Syndicate 2005". BayBio Press Release. 15 February 2005. Retrieved 27 January 2013.