Ronald W. Davis

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Ronald W. Davis
Born (1941-07-17) July 17, 1941 (age 79)
Charleston, Illinois[1]
Alma materCalifornia Institute of Technology, Eastern Illinois University
Known forHuman Genome Project
patents in biotechnology
Janet Dafoe
(m. 1969)
ChildrenWhitney Dafoe
Ashley Davis
AwardsPrecision Medicine World Conference Luminary Award (2015)[2]
Warren Alpert Foundation Prize (2013)
Gruber Prize in Genetics (2011)[3]
Distinguished Alumni Award, California Institute of Technology (2007)
Dickson Prize in Medicine (2005)
Lifetime Achievement Award, Genetics Society of America (2004)
NAS Award in Molecular Biology (1981)
Eli Lilly Award in Microbiology and Immunology (1976)
Scientific career
Molecular Genetics
InstitutionsStanford University, Harvard University, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
ThesisA Study of the Base Sequence Arrangement in DNA by Electron Microscopy (1970)

Ronald Wayne "Ron" Davis (born July 17, 1941) is Professor of Biochemistry & Genetics, and Director of the Stanford Genome Technology Center at Stanford University.[4] Davis is a researcher in biotechnology and molecular genetics, particularly active in human and yeast genomics and the development of new technologies in genomics, with over 30 biotechnology patents.[5] In 2013, it was said of Davis that "A substantial number of the major genetic advances of the past 20 years can be traced back to Davis in some way."[6]

Scientific career[edit]

After completing his PhD at Caltech and a postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard University working with Jim Watson, Davis joined the faculty of Stanford's Department of Biochemistry in 1972.[7] He became an Associate Professor in 1980, full Professor in 1980, and joined the Department of Genetics as a professor in 1990. He became director of the Stanford Genome Technology Center in 1994. He was elected a member of the National Academy of Sciences in 1983.[8][9]

Davis developed the R-loop technique of electron microscopy for mapping coding RNAs which led to the discovery of RNA splicing.[10] With Janet E. Mertz, Davis was the first to demonstrate the use of restriction endonucleases for joining DNA fragments.[11] Davis collaborated in the development of the first DNA microarray for gene expression profiling with Patrick O. Brown,[12] and the gene expression profile of the first complete eukaryotic genome (Saccharomyces cerevisiae).[13] Davis, with David Botstein, Mark Skolnick, and Ray White developed the method[14] for constructing a genetic linkage map using restriction fragment length polymorphisms that enabled and led to the Human Genome Project.

He and his colleagues submitted a proposal to NIH to map the human genome in 1979; that proposal was turned down as being too ambitious.[7] The Stanford Genome Technology Center was included in the Human Genome Project that began in 1990 and was completed in 2003.

In 2013, Davis founded the Stanford Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Research Center (now called ME/CFS Collaborative Research Center).[15]

Recognition and awards[edit]

In 2013 Davis was named, alongside Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, as one of today’s nine greatest innovators by The Atlantic: "A substantial number of the major genetic advances of the past 20 years can be traced back to Davis in some way."[6]

He has won recognition for his contributions to genetic research from many groups, as early as 1976 and as recently as 2015, from one of his alumni colleges and from the National Academy of Sciences. Starting from his most recent award, here are awards and recognition Davis has received for his achievements in and contributions to science. In 2015, he received the Precision Medicine World Conference Luminary Award for his development of “R-loop Technique of Electron Microscopy”.[2] In 2013, he received the Warren Alpert Foundation Prize.

He received the Gruber Prize in Genetics in 2011, which noted among other achievements, two landmark papers, one in 1977 concerning genome editing and another in 1980 which "helped launch the field of genomics."[3] In 2007, California Institute of Technology gave him its Distinguished Alumni Award. In 2005, Davis received the Dickson Prize in Medicine. In 2004, he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Genetics Society of America. The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) gave him the 1982 NAS Award in Molecular Biology. In 1976, he received the Eli Lilly Award in Microbiology and Immunology.

Open Medicine Foundation[edit]

Dr. Davis is the director of the Scientific Advisory Board at the Open Medicine Foundation, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization (EIN# 26-4712664), whose goal is to fund and initiate research into chronic complex diseases.[16] Presently the foundation is invested in The End ME/CFS Project, which aims to fast-track research for a cure for myalgic encephalomyelitis / chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS).[17]

In April 2019, a notable result was reported; a test of blood without red cells (white cells in plasma), identified ME/CFS patients from healthy people with 100% accuracy in a small sample, 20 patients and 20 healthy people.[18][19][20] The test used a biotechnological device designed by Davis and his team, which is called the "nanoneedle".

“The small device that Davis and his colleagues created was originally developed to detect changes in electrical signals when cancer cells were exposed to different treatments.”, as described in Stat News.[19] it was used to test cells of ME/CFS patients, and in their first hypothesis, found it to be useful in distinguishing patients from healthy people. People with this disease are described as not using energy well and taking a long time to recover from energy expenditure; “the researchers decided to mimic this by stressing cells from 20 healthy controls and 20 ME/CFS patients by exposing them to increased levels of salt.”[19] Rahim Esfandyarpour, lead author of the paper, said “When they [cells from ME/CFS patients] face this new environment, their reaction is different than the reaction of healthy cells.”[19]

Davis’s research became more urgent and important after Dr. Anthony Fauci warned that some COVID survivors showed symptoms in line with those of ME/CFS. “This is a phenomenon that is really quite real and quite extensive,” Fauci said at the federal government’s first conference on “COVID long haulers” in early December, calling it “a significant public health issue”. According to Fauci, “a considerable number” of COVID survivors struggle with extreme exhaustion, memory lapses, and cognitive difficulties many months after they have been officially cleared as recovered. Davis is part of a high-level interagency work and research group looking at the long-term consequences of COVID with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), National Institutes of Health, the Veterans Administration, and the Department of Defense.[15]


Davis married Janet Dafoe in July 1969.[1][7] Their son, Whitney Dafoe was born in 1983, followed by their daughter Ashley Davis.[1] Whitney Dafoe became ill with severe ME/CFS around 2009,[7] declining from active and healthy in his career as a photographer to housebound, and by 2015 bed bound from this disease, unable to tolerate sounds and light, unable to do much at all, and eventually unable to eat, drink or speak.[21][22] As his endurance decreased, Dafoe moved back home in May 2011.[7] His mother cut her work as a clinical psychologist to five hours a week to spend full time on his daily care as he continued declining in function,[7] while Davis continues his research career and helps with his son’s daily care. Dafoe’s need for treatment is the motivation for Davis to direct his medical and scientific research efforts toward this disease; he dropped all other projects in hand before his son became so ill.[17][7]


  1. ^ a b c "Happy 75th Birthday to Scientist Ronald W. Davis, PhD". Open Medicine Foundation (video). July 12, 2016. Retrieved May 3, 2019.
  2. ^ a b "Past Luminary Awards". PMWC 2019 Silicon Valley Luminary & Pioneer Awards. Retrieved May 3, 2019.
  3. ^ a b "2011 Gruber Genetics Prize: Ronald W. Davis". Gruber Foundation at Yale. 2011. Retrieved May 5, 2019.
  4. ^ "Genome Technology Center: History". Stanford Medicine. Palo Alto, California. Retrieved May 3, 2019.
  5. ^ "Center Publications – Genome Technology Center". Stanford University School of Medicine. December 12, 2013. Retrieved May 3, 2019.
  6. ^ a b Allan, Nicole (October 23, 2013). "Who Will Tomorrow's Historians Consider Today's Greatest Inventors?". The Atlantic.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g Prior, Ryan (May 13, 2019). "He pioneered technology that fueled the Human Genome Project. Now his greatest challenge is curing his own son". CNN. Retrieved May 14, 2019.
  8. ^ "Ronald W. Davis". National Academy of Sciences member directory. Retrieved January 18, 2021.
  9. ^ "Ronald W. Davis Honors and Awards". Stanford Medicine Genome Technology Center. May 15, 2017. Retrieved January 18, 2021.
  10. ^ University of Pittsburgh University Marketing Communications Webteam. "Ronald W. Davis, PhD – Dickson Prize in Medicine – University of Pittsburgh".
  11. ^ Mertz, J. E.; Davis, R. W. (1972). "Cleavage of DNA by RI restriction endonuclease generates cohesive ends". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 69 (11): 3370–3374. Bibcode:1972PNAS...69.3370M. doi:10.1073/pnas.69.11.3370. PMC 389773. PMID 4343968.
  12. ^ Schena, M.; Shalon, D.; Davis, R. W.; Brown, P. O. (1995). "Quantitative monitoring of gene expression patterns with a complementary DNA microarray". Science. 270 (5235): 467–470. Bibcode:1995Sci...270..467S. doi:10.1126/science.270.5235.467. PMID 7569999. S2CID 6720459.
  13. ^ Lashkari DA, DeRisi JL, McCusker JH, Namath AF, Gentile C, Hwang SY, Brown PO, Davis RW (1997). "Yeast microarrays for genome wide parallel genetic and gene expression analysis". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 94 (24): 13057–13062. Bibcode:1997PNAS...9413057L. doi:10.1073/pnas.94.24.13057. PMC 24262. PMID 9371799.
  14. ^ Botstein, D.; White, R.; Skolnick, M.; Davis, R. (1980). "Construction of a genetic linkage map in man using restriction fragment length polymorphisms". American Journal of Human Genetics. 32 (3): 314–331. PMC 1686077. PMID 6247908.
  15. ^ a b Haas, Michaela (January 2, 2021). "A geneticist's biggest challenge: Curing his own son". Al Jazeera. Retrieved June 8, 2021.
  16. ^ "Scientific Advisory Board". Open Medicine Foundation. Agoura Hills, California. 2019. Retrieved May 3, 2018.
  17. ^ a b "The End ME/CFS Project". Open Medicine Foundation. Retrieved May 3, 2019.
  18. ^ "What does the nanoneedle research mean for ME/CFS patients?". Open Medical Foundation (video). April 29, 2019. Retrieved May 4, 2019.
  19. ^ a b c d Chadradhar, Shraddha (April 30, 2019). "An experimental test may help confirm cases of chronic fatigue syndrome". Stat News. Retrieved May 4, 2019.
  20. ^ Esfandyarpour, R.; Kashi, A.; Nemat-Gorgani, M.; Wilhelmy, J.; Davis, R. W. (April 29, 2019). "A nanoelectronics-blood-based diagnostic biomarker for myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS)". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 116 (21): 10250–10257. Bibcode:2019PNAS..11610250E. doi:10.1073/pnas.1901274116. PMC 6535016. PMID 31036648.
  21. ^ "Invisible Illness – Stories of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome". Palo Alto Online (video). July 10, 2015. Retrieved May 3, 2019.
  22. ^ "Finding an ME/CFS Biomarker, Ronald Davis, Stanford University". ME/CFS Alert 109 (video). September 13, 2019. Retrieved September 20, 2019.

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