Jonathan Rothberg — a pioneer in genetic sequencing technology, serial entrepreneur, Yale alumnus, and New Haven native — will receive the National Medal of Technology and Innovation, the White House announced Dec. 22.
The medal is awarded annually to individuals, teams, companies, or divisions of companies for their outstanding contributions to America’s economic, environmental, and social well-being. Rothberg is one of seven winners of the medal, which will be awarded at a White House ceremony early next year.
Rothberg’s passion for biotechnology was spurred in part by his daughter’s rare genetic disorder and, later, a life-or-death scare after the birth of his son Noah in 1999.
“My motivation for developing high-speed ways to understand a person’s genetic makeup was personal — my son was rushed to the newborn intensive care unit at Yale, and I wanted to know why,” said Rothberg, an adjunct professor of genetics at Yale. “I’m gratified that answering that question allowed me to take a journey with the most creative scientists, engineers, and physicians, and ultimately to help others.”
Noah and his daughter are doing well, reports Rothberg. He and his wife, Dr. Bonnie Gould Rothberg, an assistant professor of medicine at Yale, have five children and live in Guilford.
His introduction of massively parallel DNA sequencing technology greatly increased the speed and efficiency of genomic analysis. Rothberg has led or been a major part of well-known sequencing projects — including the first human genome (of Nobel laureate Jim Watson), the Neanderthal genome, and incorporation of sequencing technology on semi-conductor chips.
Rothberg, who received his Ph.D. in molecular biology from Yale in 1991, is founder of a string of successful Connecticut companies, including 454 Life Science, CuraGen, Ion Torrent, Raindance Technologies, Hyperfine Research, Butterfly Network Inc., LAM Therapeutics, and 4Catalyzer.
He was winner of The Wall Street Journal’s Gold Medal for Innovation and the 2010 Connecticut Medal of Technology. He was named a World Economic Technology Pioneer and is a member of the National Academy of Engineering.
“Jonathan is a pioneer in the development of radical new technologies that marry engineering and the life sciences, and has been highly successful in bringing these novel technologies into wide commercial use,” said Richard Lifton, Sterling Professor and chair of the Department of Genetics at Yale. “From his invention of revolutionary DNA sequencing technologies to hand-held medical imaging devices, his highly innovative contributions have had enormous impact.”