University of Pittsburgh

The Dickson Prize in Medicine

2005 Dickson Prize Winner

Ronald W. Davis, PhD

Ronald W. Davis, PhD

Professor of Biochemistry and Genetics, School of Medicine
Director, Stanford Genome Technology Center
Stanford University

2005 Dickson Prize in Medicine Lecture
“New Genomic Technology for Yeast Applied to Clinical Medicine”

Ronald W. Davis, PhD, is a world leader in the development of biotechnology, especially the development and application of recombinant DNA and genomic methodologies to biological systems. At Stanford University, where he is professor of biochemistry and genetics in the School of Medicine and director of the Stanford Genome Technology Center, Davis focuses on the exploitation for biological research of a set of more than 5,000 strains of Saccharomyces cerevisiae (baker’s yeast) that he constructed wherein a different yeast gene is deleted in each strain. Davis and his research team develop novel technologies for the genetic, genomic, and molecular analysis of a wide range of model organisms as well as humans. The team’s focus on practical application of these technologies is setting the standard for clinical genomics.

In the course of his career, Davis has made a “great positive impact on a broad swath of biomedical research,” according to his nominator for the 2005 Dickson Prize in Medicine. Davis and the students, postdoctoral fellows, and technicians in his laboratory have developed many of the techniques currently used in academic and industrial biotechnology laboratories. Early in his career, Davis developed the quantitative analysis of DNA by electron microscopy as well as the R-loop technique for mapping coding RNAs by electron microscopy. (This R-loop technology later made the discovery of RNA splicing possible.) Davis was instrumental in developing phage lambda-based cloning vectors and showed how they could be used for large capacity cloning with both bacterial and eukaryotic DNA. He also contributed significantly to the early development of recombinant DNA methods and extended these methods into yeast and higher eukaryotes.

Davis earned his BS degree in chemistry, physics, mathematics, and botany from Eastern Illinois University and his PhD in chemistry from the California Institute of Technology. He did postdoctoral work at Harvard University before joining the faculty in the Department of Biochemistry at Stanford University. Eastern Illinois University has recognized Davis with a Distinguished Alumnus Award and an honorary doctoral degree.

Davis' other honors include the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Genetics Society of America and the Herbert A. Sober Lectureship Award from the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology/International Union of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. Davis also has received the Eli Lilly Company Young Investigator Award, the Senior Scholar Award in Global Infectious Disease from the Ellison Medical Foundation, the Chiron Corporation Biotechnology Research Award, the Genetics Society of America Medal, the Lewis S. Rosenstiel Award for Distinguished Work in Basic Medical Research, and the United States Steel Award presented by the National Academy of Sciences.

Davis is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Microbiology, the American Chemical Society, and the Human Genome Organization. He has served on the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Genome Research Review Committee, the NIH Center for Biomedical Ethics Steering Committee, the World Health Organization Immunology of Tuberculosis Steering Committee, and as chairman of the World Health Organization Strategic Research Steering Committee.

(Originally published Oct. 6, 2005)