Prof. Szybalski CV

Professor Wacław Szybalski (CV)

One of the greatest and best-known Polish biochemists and molecular geneticists, Wacław Szybalski is presently a professor emeritus of oncology at the McArdle Laboratory for Cancer Research, University of Wisconsin, Madison USA. Born in Lwów, Poland, on September 9, 1921. Graduated from the Politechnika Lwowska (currently Lviv Technical University), Politechnika Śląska (SilesianTechnical University) and Politechnika Gdańska (Gdańsk Technical University), where in 1949 he obtained D.Sc. in chemistry. Since 1950 resides in the USA. During his long and productive scientific career, Professor Szybalski has made many key discoveries in biochemistry and molecular genetics, creating techniques that have changed the face of modern biology.

While still a student at the Politechnika Lwowska (1939-1944), he devised a method of paper chromatography. During the following years in Denmark (1946-1949), he made an important contribution to understanding the kinetics of chemicals reactions and bacterial aerobic corrosion of iron. His prolific research in the USA began with genetic studies of drug resistance that culminated in formulation of principles of multi-drug therapy in fighting bacterial infections and cancer (1953-1956). He also developed the genetics of antibiotic-producing Streptomyces, and then of human cells, when he designed the HAT medium (1961) to be used for selection of human HPRT gene transductants and later for production of monoclonal antibodies (mAbs). Subsequently, he was the first researcher to perform gene transfer into mammalian cells (1962) and to introduce the ground-breaking idea that treatment for human genetic diseases will be possible using gene therapy. In 1963, Wacław Szybalski has also synthesized the first biologically active transforming DNA  and proposed the term “synthetic biology” (1974) for the emerging field of designing and constructing synthetic life. His many contributions to the genomics included novel designer activities for restriction enzymes, single-copy amplifiable gene libraries and a variety of other techniques used in studying the human genome.

Still active professionally, at 91, Professor Szybalski has authored more than 700 publications. His works have been cited more than 12,000 times and his h-index is 56. For his scientific achievements, he was repeatedly nominated for the Nobel Prize. He is a Foreign Member of the Polish Academy of Sciences and received an honorary doctoral degree (Doctor Honoris Causa) from the University of Marie Skłodowska–Curie in Lublin, the University of Gdańsk, Gdańsk Technical University (Politechnika Gdańska), the Medical University of Gdańsk and the (oldest Polish) Jagiellonian University in Kraków. Professor Szybalski received also an Order of Merit, Commander Class of the Republic of Poland (2004) and the Grand Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta (Rebirth of Poland) bestowed on him by the President of Poland on May 3, 2011.