The Lifetime Achievement Award was presented by the Society for In Vitro Biology (SIVB) to two scientists at the 2006 In Vitro Biology meeting in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The recipients of this prestigious award were Wei-Shou Hu, who was nominated by David Jayme, and Bob Conger who was nominated by David Songstad. Articles featuring each Lifetime Achievement Award winner will be presented in separate issues of the In Vitro Report.

Wei-Shou Hu receives the 2006 Lifetime Achievement Award

The Lifetime Achievement Award is a prestigious award presented by the SIVB to unique individuals who have contributed significantly to and developed novel technologies in the field of in vitro biology. The illustrious career of Dr. Wei-Shou Hu fulfills every aspect of these criteria.

After receiving his undergraduate degree in agricultural chemistry in 1974 from National Taiwan University, Wei-Shou Hu came to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he was tutored by notable pioneers in the field of biochemical engineering. Dr. Hu received his Ph.D. in 1983 from the University of Minnesota and is currently the Distinguished McKnight University Professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering and Material Sciences.

Dr. Hu’s research interests encompass cell culture technology, tissue engineering, and metabolic engineering. The emphases of his research are on the application of engineering analysis to biochemical and cellular systems, and on the incorporation of physiological insight into the quantitative modeling of biological systems. The systems employed in Dr. Hu’s research include mammalian cells, differentiated tissue cells, and microorganisms. His current research efforts emphasize employing genomic and proteomic tools, and exploring system reduction and novel modeling approaches for the quantitative description of cellular processes. Dr. Hu’s unique background and insights into cell culture technology from the perspective of a biochemical engineer have resulted in significant advances in bioreactor design, operation, monitoring, and process optimization. His contributions to in vitro biology and biochemical engineering are exemplified by his contributions to numerous publications, books, and patents. Dr. Hu has published 233 journal articles and book chapters, mostly focused upon applications of cultured eukaryotic cells for biological production and tissue engineering. He is the coauthor of three books, including the recent Cell Culture Technology for Pharmaceutical and Cellular Therapy, written by Sadettin Ozturk. He is also a co-inventor on multiple patents covering process optimization to bioreactor and device design.

Dr. Hu has also made significant contributions through his teaching and mentoring of students. His educational efforts have resulted in the textbook Bioseparations, the laboratory video manual Microcarrier Culture Techniques, and an annually updated CD-ROM of teaching materials on cell culture engineering. At the University of Minnesota, Dr. Hu currently teaches “Quantitative Biology for Engineers” and “Biochemical Engineering,” and is also active in the continuing education of professionals in the biotechnology industry as exemplified by the premier short course he has developed, “Cell and Tissue Reactor Engineering.” Under his mentorship, an extensive legacy of graduate students and postdoctoral fellows have published creative research, exploring and advancing virtually every type of eukaryotic cell bioreactor; conducted laboratory and pilot scale studies to optimize biological production of monoclonal antibodies, recombinant proteins and viruses; elucidated regulatory mechanisms for intermediary metabolism to optimize bioreactor performance; and applied in vitro knowledge to develop potential ex vivo human therapeutic devices. Beyond his extensive accomplishments, Dr. Hu exemplifies the mentorship and approachability so desirable yet so rare in a scientist of his caliber. He handles eminent peers and aspiring students with equivalent attentiveness; appears equally at home in the classroom, the boardroom, and the lecture hall; and touches virtually everyone he contacts with his infectious enthusiasm.

Dr. Hu has also made numerous contributions to in vitro biology and biochemical engineering through his service activities. He has served on the editorial boards of various journals including the Journal of Biotechnology and Biomedical Engineering, Cytotechnology, the Journal of Fermentation and Bioengineering, Biotechnology Advances, the Journal of Chinese Institute of Chemical Engineers, and Advances in Biochemical Engineering/Biotechnology. Dr. Hu initiated the Engineering Foundation conferences on cell culture engineering and biochemical engineering and has participated regularly in these events for nearly two decades. The conference on cell culture engineering is one of the most successful conferences for the foundation and has had a great impact on the biotech industry. In addition, Dr. Hu has helped to organize numerous national and international conferences; has served as a consultant to as well as served on numerous advisory boards for biotechnology and biopharmaceutical firms, academic institutions and governmental organizations; and has served as chair of Division 15 (food, pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and bioengineering) for the American Institute of Chemical Engineers. In recognition of his contributions to in vitro biology and to biochemical engineering, Dr. Hu has received a number of prestigious honors and awards. In 2002, he received the first Merck Award in Cell Culture Engineering and was recognized in 2005 with the Marvin Johnson Award from the Biochemical Technology Division of the American Chemical Society for contributions made in biochemical engineering.

Dr. Wei-Shou Hu had this to say after receiving the SIVB Lifetime Achievement Award:

“It is a tremendous honor to receive this award. Being a biochemical engineer spending the whole career growing animal cells and plant tissues, this award from SIVB indeed has a very special meaning to me.

“I often tell my students that we do our research for the love of cells. I have grown all sorts of cells–bovine, swine, hamster, chicken, carrot and, maybe to your surprise, Douglas fir; all sorts of tissues–liver, kidney, lung, testis, plant shoots, and plant embryo. Upon hearing the honor of receiving this award, I also had a moment of reflection on the path I have taken. I have always been blessed with opportunities to work with lots of talents, colleagues, and students alike. I have always been lucky in having an excellent group of students, post-docs, and staff working with me, making my life stimulating and rewarding. Two decades ago, many colleagues and I started the effort to introduce engineering to cell culture and extending cell culture to the engineering profession; Dave Jayme included. I am indeed indebted to those colleagues and all my students. Looking back we should all be very proud of what the field has become.

“In many ways, I take this award as recognition of what in vitro biology has done for the well- being of humanity. I still recall my student days of growing human foreskin fibroblasts for interferon production through viral induction. A couple months after I selected that topic as my Ph.D. thesis, the announcement of cloning of interferon into E. coli was a New York Times front page article. All my peers, even professors, thought that the cloning success signaled the demise of cell culture. Here, a quarter century later, cell culture experimentalists not only did not become dinosaurs, we are even stronger than ever; cell culture processes today produces over $20 billion of therapeutic proteins.

“We cannot claim all the credits for the success of cell culture products; however, we do have plenty to be proud of. No one can deny that the fundamentals of cultivating cells in vitro form the foundation for this industry. We helped steer the cell culture processes from the days of 10 percent fetal calf serum and tissue culture as an art to today’s largely protein-free culture medium and well-defined culture conditions. In some views, we are the victims of our own success. Many take culturing cells for granted, as it has become so easy. Cell and tissue culture is now used for nanotechnology, BioMEMS, high-throughput technology, genomics, whichever field you name it. However, we know better than that. We still have a lot in us that cannot be taken away. One can draw a design map for a device, a hardware system; one can sketch out a good metabolic profile. However, no one can draw you a picture of good cells vs. bad cells. It still takes trained eyes and still takes a heart that says, “For the love of cells” to be able to tell a good cell from a bad cell. There are ample opportunities ahead for cell culture experimentalists. The key is for us to reach out to forge a new interdisciplinary team and to integrate different fields like we did 20 years ago in introducing engineering to cell culture and cell culture to engineering.

In closing, tissue culture has come a long way and that is something that all of us should be very proud of. I thank what SIVB had done for our profession and I thank the society for this award. It means a lot to me and all of the students and fellows in my group. Thank you.”

Information provided by David Jayme and Wei-Shou Hu
Marcia Faye, Manager of Editorial Projects at Midwestern University assisted with proof reading