John Finer receives lifetime achievement award

John Finer at podium

John Finer received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Society for In Vitro Biology (SIVB) on June 3 in St. Louis.

"The SIVB Board of Directors agreed unanimously that your contributions were of the highest scientific, professional, and humanitarian level to be awarded the 2018 Lifetime Achievement Award," said Dwight Tomes, SIVB president, in a letter to Finer.

The honor is awarded to those scientists who have achieved academic excellence in their field of study, and to honor those who have made significant contributions to the field of in vitro biology, and/or in the development of novel technologies that have advanced in vitro biology.

Finer received his MS and PhD in Roberta Smith’s laboratory at Texas A&M University. After a post-doc at Ciba-Geigy, working on cotton tissue culture and transformation, he joined the faculty at The Ohio State University at the CFAES Wooster campus where he works for the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center.

He established embryogenic suspension cultures systems for many plants, including soybeans and cotton. His Ohio State lab was the first university lab to report consistent generation of transgenic soybeans, 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 soybeans. 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.

Finer also 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.

This development is one that stands out most to Finer. "That method is in widespread use around the planet and has been used for production of many of the plants that are in the fields today. I guess that we were a little ahead of the times with this as it took some time to be adopted," he said. "But, SAAT has now become a standard method for DNA introduction in plants. We have made other discoveries that I have been equally excited about but these have not yet been picked up by the broader plant sciences community."

While Finer continues to work to improve tissue culture and transformation efficiencies in plants (mostly soybeans), 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 SIVB, Finer 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.