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In Memoriam: Jo Messing, Developer of Shotgun Sequencing

Friday, October 4, 2019

The DNA sequencing community lost one of its founding fathers last month with the death of Jo Messing, director of the Waksman Institute at Rutgers University.

Dr. Messing, who died at the age of 73, developed shotgun sequencing and the M13 sequencing vector used for cloning in the 1980s. Because he declined to patent this work, it was freely available and quickly became the foundation for a burgeoning molecular genetics field.

Dr. Messing’s scientific acumen and commitment to innovation in DNA sequencing remained a guiding force for the community throughout his life. In a PNAS paper published just a few days after his death, he and his colleagues presented some truly fascinating discoveries about the evolutionary and immune function of sequence repeats in the genome of Spirodela polyrhiza, an aquatic plant.

His dedication to generating high-quality genome assemblies for plants helped improve our understanding of maize, rice, sorghum, and other challenging genomes. A few years ago, we reported on his analysis of structural variation in maize, in which his team produced a highly accurate representation of copy number variation in the plant’s genome.

The PacBio team will remember Dr. Messing as a kind and generous scientist whose enthusiasm for our long-read sequencing technology was a true gift. He always remained humble no matter how great his accomplishments, and we count ourselves fortunate to have known him.

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