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Wes Hatfield

BA ’64 Analytical Biology, University of California-Santa Barbara
PhD ’68 Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, Purdue University
(Nominated by: Nominated by Biological Sciences)

"In the β€˜60s, Purdue faculty in physics, mathematics and biology pioneered the merger of these disciplines into fields we now know as molecular biology and biophysics. This was the beginning of the β€˜new biology,' and I was there, trained by pioneers such as H. E. Umbarger, Seymour Benzer, Sewell Champe, P.T. Gilham, Fred Neidhardt, William. J. Ray Jr., and many others."

Wes Hatfield pioneered several advancements in molecular biology while training and mentoring hundreds of medical, engineering and science students during his 35-year tenure at University of California-Irvine. Among his numerous companies and patents are Verdezyne, Inc., and Actavalon, Inc.

In the 1990s and early 2000s, Hatfield and his team expanded their genetic engineering repertoire of tools. They developed a computer program for the dynamic modeling of metabolic pathways called kMech. He helped develop and obtained a patent for new methods for the computational design and synthesis of long DNA sequences with unique thermodynamic properties advantageous for genetic engineering. With these tools in hand, Hatfield co-founded CODA Genomics Inc., a synthetic biology company, now named Verdezyne, to engineer new metabolic pathways into microorganisms for the environmentally safe manufacture of chemicals currently obtained from petroleum. Today, Verdezyne, is located in Carlsbad, CA, with more than 100 employees, and it is ranked 13th in the world's hottest 30 bio-based chemical and materials companies. The company’s impact looks to reduce green house gas emissions caused by petroleum based adipic acid production while implementing new bio-production methods from non-food sustainable sources.

Actavalon is a nascent drug development company founded by faculty from University of California-Irvine and University of California-San Diego and funded by private investors to develop small molecule, broad spectrum, anti-cancer drugs for the reactivation of mutant p53 proteins. If Actavalon is successful, it would have the most significant impact on the fight against cancer to date.

Since his 2006 retirement from academia, Hatfield has enjoyed helping younger faculty entrepreneurs found companies to transfer the results of their academic research to the public arena.

While plenty busy with is companies, Hatfield said he still fondly remembers “the lifelong friendships of my fellow graduate students, and the lifetime friendships and support of the faculty” during his years at Purdue.


  • 2005 - Co-founded synthetic biology company Verdezyne, Inc.
  • 1992 - Patented codon pair utilization
  • 1984 - Founded American Biogenetics Corporation
  • 1975 - Eli Lilly Award of the American Society of Microbiology
  • 1970-75 - Developed hydrophobic column method for the purification of individual tRNA isoacceptor molecules

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