The highest honor given by the Society for In Vitro Biology is the Lifetime Achievement Award. It is presented to scientists who are considered pioneers or highly influential researchers to the science and art of cell culture. They are men and women who have devoted their careers to exemplary research and/or teaching. The recipients of the Lifetime Achievement Award are selected by vote of the Board of Directors from a list of nominations recommended by the Awards Committee. The Society for In Vitro Biology honored Dr. John Finer and Dr. Sandra Schneider with SIVB Lifetime Achievement Awards at the 2018 In Vitro Biology Meeting in Saint Louis, MO. This issue highlights Dr. John Finer’s career. Dr. Sandra Schneider’s career will be highlighted in a future issue of the In Vitro Report.
Dr. John Finer Receives the 2018 Lifetime Achievement Award
As a PhD student in Roberta Smith’s laboratory at Texas A&M University, John Finer received his classical training in tissue culture, histology/microscopy and somatic embryogenesis in plants, working with wild carrot and cotton. He joined the TCA about 2 years prior to his graduation in 1984 and was immediately taken in and entertained by Bob Lawrence, Martha Wright, Jim Henderson, and Trevor Thorpe at his first attendances of the annual meetings. After a post-doc at Ciba-Geigy with Mary-Dell Chilton, working on cotton tissue culture and transformation using Agrobacterium, he joined the faculty at The Ohio State University. He has been at OSU as faculty since 1986. John’s main accomplishments are the establishment of embryogenic suspension cultures systems for many plants, including soybean and cotton. His lab at OSU was the first university lab to report consistent generation of transgenic soybean, cotton and maize using particle bombardment of embryogenic suspension cultures. He developed the “10A40N” medium, which later became known as “Finer and Nagasawa” medium for growing embryogenic cultures of soybean. In the early 1990’s, he constructed an inexpensive and easy-to-assemble gene gun, which he called the PIG (Particle Inflow Gun). The PIG is in widespread use for gene introduction in labs all over the world. With his post-doc Harold Trick, they developed SAAT (Sonication Assisted Agrobacterium-mediated Transformation), which also remains in widespread use in many plant transformation laboratories. SAAT was patented and licensed, and has become a base technology for many of the commercial transgenics in the field today. While John continues to work to improve tissue culture and transformation efficiencies in plants (mostly soybean), his more recent research efforts have shifted to isolation and characterization of promoters using GFP and genome editing approaches.
He has developed a toolbox of soybean promoters and has characterized many of them, identifying the regulatory elements within the promoters that contribute to gene expression. A Glycine max ubiquitin (Gmubi) promoter has received the most attention, and elements within both the promoter and the 5’UTR intronic region were identified. Within the society, John has served on the executive committee as a member-at-large and was the Secretary for two terms. He was vice-chair and chair of the plant division, and was responsible for fund-raising for the division as vice-chair. He has also served as an Associate Editor, Reviews Editor and Editor-in-Chief for the society journal, In Vitro Cellular and Developmental Biology – Plant.
Submitted by Baochun Li and Harold Trick