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William J. Rutter, Ph.D. - Biography

Last Updated: March 20, 2007

Dr. Rutter is Chairman and CEO of Synergenics, LLC, Chairman Emeritus of Chiron Corporation and Herzstein Professor of Biochemistry Emeritus at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) where he played a key role in developing UCSF in a major scientific contributor.  Dr. Rutter previously served as a founder and Chairman of Chiron Corporation and member of the Board of Director of Ciba-Greigy/Novartis.  He was instrumental in building Chiron into a global biotech power house. 

In his academic career, Dr. Rutter was chairman of the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics at the University of California, San Francisco. The department played a key role in developing recombinant DNA technology, genetic engineering and information of biotech companies to develop and exploit technology.  During the early days in Chiron, he was concurrently the Director of the Hormone Research Institute at UCSF.  Dr. Rutter and colleagues have published more than 380 scientific articles and holds more than 25 patents.  His lab made several early contributions in biotechnology, including the first cloning of the insulin gene; the development of a process for making a vaccine against hepatitis B virus, the first vaccine based on recombinant DNA methodology.  Dr. Rutter was elected to the U.S. National Academic of Sciences and American Academy of Arts and Sciences more than two decades ago. 

Under Dr. Rutter’s leadership, Chiron placed a major emphasis on the detection and prevention of infectious diseases. In collaboration with Merck, Chiron developed a process for manufacturing the Hepatitis B vaccine from yeast that is used by Merck and all the major manufacturers of this vaccine.  Dr. Rutter’s commitment to funding research on important infectious diseases led to the first sequencing of the HIV genome in 1984, and the discovery, sequencing and cloning of the hepatitis C virus in 1987, two of Chiron's most enduring achievements.  These discoveries have led to sensitive diagnostic tests, for example, used in screening for contaminated blood worldwide, and to new technologies and development of vaccines and therapeutic drugs against these viruses In addition to work on Infectious Disease, Chiron under Dr. Rutter’s direction, was involved in several other major therapeutic projects against cancer and metabolic disease.  For example, Chiron, with Nordisk (now Novo-Nordisk), developed a process for manufacturing human insulin via production of the natural intermediate, proinsulin (different from the process developed by Genentech). This process is now used worldwide by all manufacturers of human insulin.

In 1999, Dr. Rutter founded Synergenics, LLC, which operates a consortium of commonly-owned but independent biotech companies offering an innovative and cost-effective approach to start-ups in the life sciences industry.  Synergenics provides member companies with financial support, shared laboratory facilities and experienced management and administrative services, creating true economies of scale.  In addition, the Synergenics concept provides an open and collaborative environment among member companies that allows a free exchange of ideas and technology, while protecting each company’s defined proprietary domains.  Synergenics Portiflio Companies

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