August 27, 1999

University System of Maryland Names Hunter-Cevera New President of University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute

University System of Maryland (USM) Board of Regents Chairman Nathan A. Chapman Jr. announced today the appointment of Jennie C. Hunter-Cevera as the second president of the University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute (UMBI). Hunter-Cevera, head of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s Center for Environmental Biotechnology in Berkeley, CA, and a noted researcher in the biotechnology industry, will begin her new position in October.

Since 1994, Hunter-Cevera has shaped the Center for Environmental Biotechnology’s mission and vision by integrating chemistry, biology and physics to provide new solutions to longstanding problems in environmental pollution. The Center is a joint venture between LBNL and UC Berkeley.

At the same time, she has served as department head for the university’s environmental biology and biochemistry department. She is responsible for a multi-million dollar operation that uses integrated scientific multi-disciplines for research on the molecular evolution of organisms from environmentally damaged sites, the health risks associated with environmental toxins, soil and groundwater structure and function, and the monitoring of biological systems in recovery.

Hunter-Cevera has written grants and obtained funding for high-level research projects, coordinated the lab’s research subcontracts for projects such as the clean-up of the Alameda Naval Air Station Base, led a research team to discover a biomarker for the detection of anthrax, and represented the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory on the Department of Energy’s Advisory Biotechnology Interlaboratory Council.

Most recently, Hunter-Cevera was involved in a documentary on Creators of the Future, one of a four-part series on microbiology to be aired this fall on PBS. She worked with the pharmaceutical industries to examine natural products for new classes of antibiotics by sampling soils and plants at Chernobyl in Ukraine, site of the 1986 nuclear accident that contaminated several hundred acres. "The appointment of Hunter-Cevera to the presidency of UMBI represents the next big step in the growth and stature of the Institute," Chapman said. "She is recognized as a national leader in industrial microbiology and biotechnology, and she is coming to UMBI because it is a place with a reputation for world leadership in its research, its partnerships with
industry and its outreach to students of all ages."

J. Stark Thompson, president and CEO of Life Technologies Inc. of Rockville, MD and head of the search committee that unanimously recommended Hunter-Cevera for the UMBI presidency, said: "She is a remarkable individual who has the right combination of talents to lead the unique venture that is UMBI: Strong academic skills, expertise in fundraising and government relations, and good solid experience in industry." Hunter-Cevera replaces Rita R. Colwell, who left UMBI in 1998 to become director of the National Science Foundation in Washington, D.C. Peter P. McCann, former president of British Biotech Inc. of Annapolis, served as interim president following Colwell’s departure. 

Thompson, who also chairs UMBI’s board of visitors, added: "Jennie is joining an institution that was the vision of an extraordinary person in Rita Colwell, and that thrived under the strong leadership of Peter McCann after Rita departed. There really is excellent science being practiced in every corner of UMBI."

Hunter-Cevera, 51, has been involved in the burgeoning field of environmental biotechnology since the early 1970s. Having received a doctoral degree in microbiology from Rutgers University in 1978, a master’ s in the same discipline from West Virginia University in 1972, and a B.A. in biology also from West Virginia, she started her career at E.R. Squibb in Princeton, NJ. There she was a researcher involved in the isolation of microorganisms from nature and assay development for antibiotic discovery. She isolated the microorganism Chromobacterium violaceum from the New Jersey pine barrens that produced a novel class of lactams, the monobactams. From 1980 to 1990 she was at the Cetus Corporation in Emeryville, CA, where she discovered novel haloperoxidases and was responsible for initiating and managing the Cetus Microbial Culture Collection. In 1994 she started a consulting company specializing in biotechnology, agricultural and industrial microbiology, bioremediation and pharmaceuticals. Other positions since then have included a research fellow at Geobiotics working on the use of microorganisms and enzymes to mine precious ores, directorship in flavor research at Universal Flavors in Indianapolis, project acquisition manager at the California Institute of Food and Agriculture, and part-time senior research fellow and advisor at Blue Sky Research Service of Sonora, CA. University System of Maryland Chancellor Donald N. Langenberg said: "Jennie Hunter-Cevera is a first-rate researcher and administrator who will lead UMBI as it exerts a growing influence on research into human health, the environment, marine biology, agriculture, and other areas of biotechnology that impact our lives on a daily basis. She brings a level of energy and enthusiasm to the job that will make UMBI the envy of its fellow institutes across the country and around the globe. She is what we mean when we describe the USM as being ‘worldwide and world class.’"

The Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, the oldest of the nine national laboratories funded by the federal government, was founded in 1931. It conducts leading-edge research in advanced materials, life sciences, energy efficiency, detectors, and accelerators. The lab’s 3,800 employees are managed by the University of California for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).
Hunter-Cevera has overseen the development of collaborative programs with other DOE labs, universities, institutions, centers and industry. She has obtained funding to support three major areas of research within the Center for Environmental Biotechnology: biogeochemical transformations; environmental diagnostics; and environmental risk assessment.

Established in 1985 by the State of Maryland, the UMBI's five centers conduct research and training that provide a core of expertise and facilities to advance the state's scientific and economic development. The centers – the Center for Advanced Research in Biotechnology in Rockville; the Center for Agricultural Biotechnology in College Park; the Center of Marine Biotechnology; the Institute of Human Virology; and the Medical Biotechnology Center, all in Baltimore – are a significant presence in the emergence of the Baltimore-Washington corridor as a major hub of advanced biotechnology research and development. UMBI’s Center of Marine Biotechnology is the anchor for the landmark Columbus Center, a leading edge marine research and training facility in Baltimore. UMBI boasts nearly 500 employees and in Fiscal Year 1999 it attracted $20.4 million in research grants and contracts. Since its inception it has gained 27 patents.

"UMBI is a model of excellence for doing basic research that can lead to applications and technology in several areas of biotechnology," Hunter-Cevera said. "There are strong foundations of basic science n the five centers ripe for integration and moving towards collaborative interactions with industry for product development. I look forward to working with a great team that will lead Maryland’s academic and industrial biotechnology programs into the next millenium."


Chris Hart
Phone: 301/445-2739
Pager: 301/507-2316

Stephen Berberich
Phone: 301/403-4696
Pager: 301/506-2849