By Brooke Adams, National Media Strategist, University Marketing and Communications
Dana Carroll, Ph.D., distinguished professor in the Department of Biochemistry in the Spencer Fox Eccles School of Medicine at the University of Utah, is the 2023 recipient of the Rosenblatt Prize for Excellence in recognition of his pioneering work in genome editing.
Carroll was the first to recognize the potential of zinc-finger nucleases as versatile tools for genome editing, laying the groundwork for all gene editing platforms, including CRISPR/Cas and TALENs. His work provided a reliable, efficient and precise method for editing the genomes of many organisms, including plants, livestock, insects, rodents and primates, and has led to the potential to correct genetic diseases in humans. Carroll provided the core underpinning of the research that led to the awarding of the 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry to Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier.
“Professor Carroll is an internationally renowned researcher who is considered a pioneer in the genome editing revolution and has remarkable record of service to his students, department, college, the university and his profession,” said Taylor Randall, president of the University of Utah. “His leadership in the U’s biochemistry program was fundamental in building a highly successful research department that has been internationally recognized due to the accomplishments of students, postdoctoral trainees and faculty.”
The Rosenblatt Prize is the University of Utah’s highest faculty accolade and is presented annually to a faculty member who transcends ordinary teaching, research and administrative contributions. A group of distinguished faculty members on the Rosenblatt Prize Committee recommends esteemed colleagues for consideration and the university’s president makes the final selection.
About Dana Carroll
Over his 48-year career at the University of Utah, Carroll has built an exceptional record as a researcher, educator, mentor and leader. Several nominators acknowledged Carroll as the “father of the gene-editing revolution.”
Carroll recognized the potential of zinc-finger nucleases and characterized much of the biology behind nuclease-mediated genome editing that is relevant to all current platforms, including CRISPR/Cas. (Learn more about zinc-finger nucleases.)
Most recently, Carroll has become heavily involved in developing important clinical and agricultural applications using these tools. These platforms are being successfully used to modify the genomes of more than 200 different organisms, including current clinical trials in humans and improvements in crop plants and livestock that address production, nutritional values and animal welfare. His publication record is extensive and includes 77 research articles, 35 invited reviews and commentaries, 18 book chapters and two patents.
“No single individual is more deserving of being recognized for the development of genome editing, and thus no single individual is more directly responsible for the genome editing revolution, than Dana Carroll,” a nominator wrote. “Genome editing has a specific scientific parent, and his name is Dana Carroll.”
Carroll played an instrumental role in the biochemistry department’s “renaissance” in the mid-1980s, one nominator wrote, working in partnership with Marty Rechsteiner as co-chairs to “recognize, attract and inspire a new generation of talented young scientists.” Many of their recruits became leaders in the field, including Venki Ramakrishnan, who received the 2009 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Carroll also served as the department’s solo chair from 1998-2009.
“We are who we are because of Dana,” wrote a nominator, who also praised Carroll’s ability to lead with humility, common sense and a focus on creating an institution that works better.
That extends to his teaching. Carroll innovated several graduate courses to help students succeed, including one that provides students with a background in chemistry with basic biology concepts and the “language” of recombinant DNA and genetic engineering, and another for medical residents to understand biomedical research. Most recently, he created a special topics course for graduate and fourth-year medical students on technical and ethical issues related to gene therapy. He has supervised 31 graduate and postdoc students and also served on 125 graduate student supervisory committees.
Carroll also has served on 26 university-wide committees, 50 committees in the School of Medicine and 20 NIH study sections.
“I will be sending a copy of Dana’s CV to my junior faculty colleagues as an inspiring example of how great research success and recognition can be achieved in combination with teaching and service at the highest level,” a nominator wrote.
Carroll is deservedly regarded as a thought leader in public discussions about the appropriate uses and limitations of genome editing-related biotechnologies and the development of thoughtful, data-driven and ethically based guidelines for human gene editing. He served on the international commission that produced the 2020 report “Heritable Human Genome Editing,” sponsored by the U.S. National Academies of Science and Medicine and the UK Royal Society.
“It is conceivable that Dana’s efforts to develop safe, effective and ethical approaches to human gene therapy may ultimately prove to be his most important contribution to science and society,” a nominator said.
Carroll is a University of Utah Distinguished Professor and a Fellow of the American Association of the Advancement of Science, a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a member of the National Academy of Sciences. He is a recipient of the Novitski Prize (2012) given by the Genetics Society of America, the Sober Lectureship Award from the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (2014), the university’s Distinguished Innovation and Impact Award (2017) and the Utah Governor’s Medal of Science and Technology (2018).
Carroll is, as one nominator noted, one of the U’s most “decorated scientists.”
About the Rosenblatt Prize for Excellence
The Rosenblatt Prize for Excellence is an endowed award, given annually to a faculty member at the University of Utah to “honor excellence in teaching, research and administrative efforts, collectively or individually, on behalf of the university.”
The endowment was created to honor Nathan and Tillie Rosenblatt on the centenary of their immigration to Utah and in recognition of their legacy of civic leadership and generosity. Originally established in 1983, the award was later increased by Joseph and Evelyn Rosenblatt and their family. The endowment and its gifts ensure the annual award of $50,000.
Learn more about the Rosenblatt Prize for Excellence.