Carl Wittwer, PhD
2013 Edwin F. Ullman Award

Dr. Wittwer is a professor of pathology at the University of Utah Medical School. He is medical director of immunologic flow cytometry at Associated Regional and University Pathologists in Salt Lake City. In the early 1990s, Dr. Wittwer developed rapid-cycle polymerase chain reaction (PCR) techniques for DNA amplification that took less than 15 minutes. He then adapted flow cytometry optics to thermal cycling for real-time monitoring of PCR. He introduced SYBR Green I, fluorescent hybridization probes, melting analysis, and high-resolution melting to real-time PCR, techniques that are widely used today. In 1990, Dr. Wittwer co-founded Idaho Technology, which has since been renamed BioFire Diagnostics and grown to a staff of more than 400 people. He currently serves as its chairman. He is the primary inventor of the LightCycler system, with over 10,000 units placed worldwide by Roche. In 2003, a portable version of the LightCycler, the R.A.P.I.D., was selected by the U.S. government as the real-time PCR platform for military defense against biological weapons. Another BioFire product, the FilmArray, received government approval in 2011 for upper respiratory infection diagnosis. This point-of-care device can identify 20 respiratory pathogens in one hour. Another FilmArray panel that identifies the causative agents of sepsis has been submitted for Food and Drug Administration approval. Since 2003, he has directed Utah’s Center of Excellence on Homogeneous DNA Analysis. Dr. Wittwer holds 34 U.S. patents and their foreign equivalents. He has published more than 200 research articles and book chapters on molecular diagnostics, and hosts an informational website (www.dna.utah.edu).

2004 Outstanding Contributions in a Selected Area of Research

Carl T. Wittwer currently is Professor of Pathology at the University of Utah Medical School and Director of Flow Cytometry and the Advanced Technology Group at Associated Regional and University Pathologists (ARUP), Salt Lake City, Utah. He received his MD from the University of Michigan, trained further in pathology at the University of Utah, and is board-certified in Anatomic and Clinical Pathology. He was the first holder the C. Scott and Dorothy E. Watkins endowed Chair in Pathology, honoring Ernst J. Eichwald, MD.

Dr. Wittwer has published more than 100 research articles and book chapters focusing on technique and instrument development in molecular diagnostics. In the early 1990s, he developed rapid-cycle PCR techniques for DNA amplification in 10–15 min. In the mid-1990s, he adapted flow cytometry optics to thermal cycling for real-time monitoring of PCR. He introduced SYBR Green I, fluorescent hybridization probes, and melting analysis to real-time PCR. These techniques are used worldwide in real-time PCR instruments today. His research is supported by the NIH, the Whitaker Foundation for Biomedical Engineering, private industry, and the State of Utah. Since 2003, he has directed the State of Utah Center of Excellence on “Homogeneous DNA Analysis”. The Center focuses on simplifying DNA analysis so that mutation scanning and genotyping can occur without separation steps, electrophoresis, or expensive covalently labeled oligonucleotide probes. The method used, “high-resolution melting analysis”, is homogeneous, allowing PCR and complete genetic analysis in <30 min without any processing steps.

In 1990, Dr. Wittwer cofounded the company Idaho Technology to commercialize technology developed in his University laboratory. He is the primary inventor of the Light-Cycler®system, with over 4 000 units placed worldwide by Roche. A portable version of the LightCycler, the R.A.P.I.D.®, has recently been selected as the real-time PCR platform for military defense against biological weapons by the US government. Dr. Wittwer holds 13 US patents and their foreign equivalents. He is the Chief Science Officer/Vice President for Research of Idaho Technology, a 110-person company located in the University of Utah Research Park. He received small business innovation awards in 1999 and 2002 and was given the Governor’s Medal for Science and Technology in 2003.

Dr. Wittwer also serves as a consultant for the NIH and several commercial companies. He has been on the Clinical Chemistry Board of Editors since 2000 and an Associate Editor since 2002. He is the editor of the book series, Rapid Cycle Real-Time PCR, published by Springer-Verlag.

Dr. Wittwer aspires to live up to the opportunities given to him by his department, ARUP, Idaho Technology, Clinical Chemistry, and the State of Utah and to survive all potential conflicts of interest. He is motivated by irrational faith in his abilities by others. For example, as state in the preface of The Polymerase Chain Reaction, by Nobel laureate and PCR inventor Kary Mullis (Mullis KB, F Ferre, RA Gibbs, eds. Boston: Birkhauser, 1994: xi):

“Few strictly methodological people are working with DNA.

A refreshing exception is Carl Wittwer, from, strangely enough, the Pathology Department at . I would have thought Chemical Engineering at Cal Tech, but I knew otherwise. If I were you, I would read his paper, or have someone more technically competent explain it. Carl has thought about PCR in a way that very few others have, and his thoughts are crisp and practical. I have always known that a good physiochemical description of PCR would be very useful, but deriving one was over my head. Others have tried but not succeeded…”

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