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Charles Arntzen's major contributions are in the field of "plant molecular biology and protein engineering, as well as the utilization of plant biotechnology for enhancement of food quality and value, for expression of pharmacological products in transgenic plants, and for overcoming health and agricultural constraints in the developing world."
He is a Regents Professor at Arizona State University, served as the founding director of the Biodesign Institute until 2003, Co-Director of the Center for Infectious Diseases and Vaccinology of that Institute until 2007. He was elected to the United States National Academy of Sciences in 1983.