Biodesign Institute Director George Poste Named Scientist Of The Year

Biodesign Institute Director George Poste Named Scientist Of The Year

October 7, 2004

October 6, 2004

Kimberly Ovitt, Director of Communication & Institutional Advancement
(480)727-8688 | kimberly.ovitt@asu.edu
October 7, 2004

 

Tempe, Ariz.-George Poste, Director of the Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University, has been named 2004 Scientist of the Year by R&D Magazine. Dr. Poste's 38-year career has encompassed roles in academia, industry and government, with expertise in disciplines as diverse as molecular biology, pharmaceutical development, and biosecurity.

The award honors Poste for his career accomplishments as a world-renowned researcher, scholar and policymaker. It also recognizes his leadership in establishing the Biodesign Institute as a confluence of leading edge technologies, said Tim Studt, Editor in Chief for R&D Magazine. Poste was recruited by ASU in May 2003 to head the Institute.

R&D Magazine is distributed to more than 80,000 scientists and engineers in industrial, academic and government research and development. Recent recipients of the annual award include J. Craig Venter, whose company led the decoding of the human genome; Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web; Eric Lander, founder of the Center for Genome Research at MIT; Bill Joy, co-founder of Sun Microsystems; and Nobel Prize winner Kary Mullis.

Poste said his capacity for curiosity has always been a great motivator. "I am never bored," he said. "I am the quintessential kid in a candy shop when it comes to any facet of science or technology. Every single day I come across something that makes me say, 'Wow,'" said Poste.

Poste said his goal at ASU is to create a different kind of research institution by integrating the most dynamic components of science, including biology, engineering and computing. The Institute's organizational structure and physical environment are designed to stimulate discoveries and translate these into new drugs, diagnostic products, medical devices and other developments that improve human health and advance national security. Poste believes there is an urgency to many pressing global health concerns.

"Our nation is asleep at the switch when it comes to being able to handle a public health crisis caused by infectious disease, whether from nature or bioterrorism," said Poste. "We need faster diagnostics and better information linkages to spot the early signs of an epidemic. We need new classes of drugs, especially as antibiotic resistance is increasingly problematic. We need better ways to assess emerging diseases so we can develop vaccines before a sizable population is infected," said Poste. "It will take radical changes within government and academia to meet these challenges, including better linkages with industry. The Biodesign Institute at ASU is an incredible vehicle for positively impacting the future," he said.

The son of an auto mechanic, Poste was raised in a rural area south of London. Poste said the bucolic setting instilled a respect for science and nature. Encouraged by a high school biology teacher, he became the first member of his family to attend college. His first doctorate was in veterinary medicine from the University of Bristol, England, where he graduated first in his class. His also holds a doctorate in virology and a doctorate of science. Dr. Poste has received honorary doctorates in law and science for his contributions to international health policy and is board certified in pathology.

Poste's wide diversity of knowledge and experience is unusual in the world of science, a field that more typically fosters hyper-specialization. A highly-sought speaker, Poste is engaged by groups as diverse as public health officials, NATO, the U.S. Department of Defense, and the pharmaceutical and biotech industries.

Poste believes his grounding in veterinary medicine equipped him well for the interdisciplinary path his career would follow. "Because veterinarians must diagnose and treat many species, there is greater focus on identifying the underlying cause of an illness. It's a systems approach that develops strong analytical skills," Poste said.

Poste moved from the U.K. to the U.S. in 1974 to pursue his career, attracted to cutting edge cancer research that was being done at the Roswell Park Memorial Institute at the State University of New York at Buffalo. He performed both teaching and research roles, rising to the rank of full professor by the comparatively young age of 31. He secured U.S. citizenship in 1989.

In 1980, Poste accepted a role with Smith-Kline & French Laboratories, now GlaxoSmithKline Pharmaceuticals, and rose to the top R&D leadership role. In an industry where bringing a single drug to market makes careers, Poste oversaw registration of 31 drug, vaccine and diagnostic products.

Poste left SmithKline in late 1999 intending to ease into retirement, and he and his wife made Scottsdale, Arizona, their primary residence. He redirected his energies into his consulting firm, Health Technology Networks, which specializes in the application of genomic technologies and computing in healthcare, and he accepted board positions with several corporations. He also remained active in his role as a Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.

In the wake of the 9-11 terrorist attacks, Poste's expertise was tapped extensively to aid national security. He served as chairman of the task force on bioterrorism for the U.S. Department of Defense, a role he completed in May 2004. He is a member of the Defense Science Board that advises the Secretary of Defense, and he also serves on the Defense Department's Threat Reduction Advisory Committee. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences Working Group on Biological Weapons and the Forum on Microbial Threats, a project of the Institute of Medicine's Board of Global Health.

When asked to lead the Biodesign Institute at ASU, Poste said he recognized an opportunity to more directly impact the challenges for which his expertise was so often being sought.

"The vision of ASU President Michael Crow for a new American University is compelling, and echoes many of my own ideas about the transformation needed within our academic and research institutions. But, what convinced me that I had to be part of the vision was the incredible progress that had been made in what, at the time, was Michael Crow's first year at the helm of ASU. With that type of leadership, I knew we could create a program to produce profound benefits in my lifetime. It's also an opportunity to chart a more integrated course for future generations of scientists." said Poste.

Poste is a Fellow of the Royal Society, a Fellow of Pembroke College Cambridge and Distinguished Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. In addition to his Biodesign Institute post, he is the Del E. Webb Distinguished Professor of Biology at ASU. He continues to serve as Chief Executive of Health Technology Networks, and he is Non-Executive Chairman of Orchid Biosciences and serves on the Board of Directors of Monsanto and Exelixis.

 

Written by: Joe Caspermeyer