Raymond L. Rodriguez

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Raymond L. Rodriguez
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Born (1947-05-31) May 31, 1947 (age 76)
Fresno California
CitizenshipUnited States
  • Bsc (biology)
  • PhD
Alma mater
  • California State University, Fresno
  • University of California, Santa Cruz
  • Professor
  • Scientist
  • Inventor
  • Entrepreneur

Raymond L. Rodriguez[1] was born on May 31, 1947 in Fresno California to migrant farm workers, Mary and Lupe Rodriguez. He was raised in San Joaquin and Kerman, California and was the oldest of five siblings. At age 10, he developed his interest in science when the former Soviet Union successfully launched Sputnik 1, the first satellite to orbit the earth. Over the years, Rodriguez chose to dedicate himself to the study of physics, chemistry and the life sciences to help make the planet a healthier and more sustainable place to live.

Education and career

In 1965, Rodriguez graduated from Kerman High School, attended Fresno City College, and received his BS degree in biology from California State University, Fresno in 1969. In 1970, he entered the PhD program at the University of California, Santa Cruz. After receiving his PhD in 1974, Rodriguez accepted a postdoctoral researcher position with professor Herbert W. Boyer in the Department of Microbiology at the University of California San Francisco Medical Center. While at UC San Francisco, he was part of the team that developed the essential tools and principles that are now fundamental components of molecular biology and the biotechnology industry.

In 1977, Rodriguez accepted a position as assistant professor in the Department of Genetics at the University of California, Davis. There, he developed cloning vectors called promoter-probe vectors[2][3] to better understand prokaryotic transcriptional regulation. By the late 1980s, Rodriguez expanded his research focus to genes and genomes. As a visiting scientist at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in 1990, he helped map and characterize the human APOE4 gene on chromosome 19. Rodriguez’ exposure to genomics and his background in plant biology led him to create the International Rice Genome Organization. Between 1990 to 1993, this ad hoc organization worked with genomics and agriculture experts to develop a sequencing strategy that was eventually used by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF). The first draft of the rice genome was released on April 5, 2002.

Shortly afterwards, Rodriguez turned his attention to diet-gene interactions. In early January 2003, he was awarded a grant from the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities to create a Center of Excellence for Nutritional Genomics. The Center was a collaborative effort with the faculty and staff of the Children’s Hospital of Oakland Research Institute. Rodriguez served as director of the Center until 2009.

In 2010, Rodriguez and adjunct professor Somen Nandi[4] formed an outreach and knowledge dissemination program called the Global HealthShare Initiative (GHS). The goal of GHS is to address the health needs of the world’s underserved and underprivileged populations through the power of sharing knowledge, technology, and resources. As GHS’s executive director[5] Rodriguez has organized and funded international projects in India, Bangladesh and Rwanda.

Research Discoveries and Accomplishments

As a UC Santa Cruz graduate student under the supervision of professor Cedric Davern,[6] Rodriguez produced visual autoradiographic evidence for bidirectional replication [7] of the E. coli chromosome. The resulting publication,[8] provided clear evidence of bidirectional DNA replication thus eliminating the opposing hypothesis of unidirectional DNA replication.

Rodriguez’s knowledge of E. coli DNA replication helped secure an A.P. Giannini postdoctoral fellowship and NIH postdoctoral fellowship in Herbert Boyer’s laboratory at UC San Francisco Medical Center. At UCSF, Rodriguez collaborated with another postdoctoral fellow, Francisco Bolivar Zapata (Paco), from the National Autonomous University of Mexico. To address the need for more efficient and better characterize vectors, Rodriguez and Bolivar codeveloped the 4,361 base pair, circular, autonomously replicating, DNA molecule, pBR322, the first general purpose molecular cloning vector approved by the National Institute of Health Guidelines (NIH Guidelines). The abbreviation, “pBR322,” refers to the plasmid “p,” constructed by Bolivar and Rodriguez “BR,” and the last of “322” transformed colonies to be screened for the pBR322 plasmid. The 1977 publication describing the construction of pBR322 has been cited nearly 6000 times according to Google Scholar. Soon after its approval by the NIH, pBR322 was used to clone and express the first chemically synthesized gene for the human peptide hormone, somatostatin. The following year, pBR322 was used to clone and express rat proinsulin. Today, the main components of pBR322 can be found in many other plasmid vectors, particularly the pUC plasmids designed and constructed by the late professor Joachim Messing.

As assistant professor in the UC Davis Department of Genetics in 1977, Rodriguez developed cloning vectors called “promoter-probe” vectors to better understand the control of prokaryotic transcription and its regulation. Between 1977 and 1987, Rodriguez published two edited volumes entitled “Promoters: Structure and Function” 1982 with M.J. Chamberlin and “Vectors: A Survey of Molecular Cloning Vectors,” 1987 with D.T. Denhardt. During this period, Rodriguez developed the first molecular cloning lab course in the nation for undergraduates and graduate students. The course was accompanied by a laboratory manual entitled “Recombinant DNA Techniques: An Introduction” co-authored with Dr. Robert C. Tait.

In addition to his research and development of plasmid vectors and their various applications, Rodriguez also developed a research program to understand the physiological systems of rice (Oryza sativa) at the molecular level. Inspired by an article in Science[9] by renowned rice geneticist, T.T. Chang, Rodriguez dedicated his laboratory to investigating the molecular biology of rice gene systems related to seed germination. This program explained the function, sequence, and organization of the rice alpha-amylase multigene family [31][32]. One of the outcomes of this research was the use of alpha-amylase gene promoters to express human proteins in rice cells[33] in culture media [34]. These findings led to patents that served as core technology for Ventria Bioscience[35] (formally Applied Phytologics Inc.), a biotechnology company founded by Rodriguez in 1993.

From 1992 to 1994, Rodriguez served as Associate Dean of Graduate Studies at UC Davis. As associate dean, he was active in programs to enhance the graduate student experience at UC Davis. One of his most successful programs was the Professors for the Future[10] program that provided professional development, leadership training, and mentoring to high-performing and high-potential graduate students.

As Executive Director of the Center of Excellence for Nutritional Genomics, Rodriguez coordinated the research activities of over 50 research faculty, physicians, postdoctoral fellows and graduate students. During his time as Center director, Center researchers published over 250 research publications and two volumes on diet-gene interactions and their relationship to human health and disease. In addition to his duties as Center director, Rodriguez maintained a research program to investigate the role of dietary factors with abilities to promote epigenetic changes on genes related to reduced cancer risk.

In 2012, Rodriguez receive a grant from the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) to investigate the production of human butyrylcholinesterase (BuChE), an enzyme used to treat the effects of chemical warfare agents, like Sarin gas. Using the fermentation of rice cells transformed with the human BuChE gene, the plant-made enzyme was produced and found to be as effective as human-sourced BuChE in neutralizing Sarin.[11]

Diversity, Inclusion, Equity

Throughout his career Rodriguez devoted time to providing educational and research opportunities for racial/ethnic minorities (REM) and women in STEM. From 1980 to 1994, he provided undergraduate research experiences for REMs and women from various California State Universities, NIH MBRS[12]/MARC[13] programs, and select HBCUs around the U.S.. From 2001 to 2002, Rodriguez served as a member and eventually chair of the Advisory Council, for the National Center for Minority Health and Health Disparities, now the National Institute for Minority Health and Health Disparities. From 2005 to 2016 Rodriguez served as a member of the Building Interdisciplinary Research Careers in Women’s Health[14] (BIRCWH) program at the UC Davis Medical Center. In 2016, he was a member of the UC Davis NIH Postbaccalaureate Research Education Program[15] (PREP) Internal Advisory and Steering Committees. From 2012 to 2017, Rodriguez served as co-Principle Investigator and member of the NSF ADVANCE[16]/ CAMPOS[17] program designed to increase the number of REM women faculty members in STEM-focused departments at UC Davis.

In 2013, Rodriguez received funding from Intel Corporation to organize the first Girls Who Code summer immersion course on a university campus. The Girls Who Code program is designed to shrink the gender gap in the computer sciences. This 10-week course, facilitated by Dr. Kristen Beck, gave 17 REM high school girls[18] exposure to computer programming and other high-tech jobs skills needed to prepare for careers in computer science. The other objective of the Girls Who Code program was to foster supportive teams that would persist beyond the end of the course. From 1997 to 2006, Rodriguez served on the Board of Directors for the Sexual Assault Domestic Violence Center of Yolo County, now known as Empower Yolo[19] As chairman of the fundraising committee, he helped raise over $1 million for a new, state-of-the-art shelter for women and children escaping violent environments.

Selected Publications

Honors and Awards

  • 2018 Collaborative Professor, ICBiotech Osaka University, Suita Campus[20], Osaka Japan
  • 2018 UC Davis CAMPOS Inaugural Hall of Fame member
  • 2018 Outstanding Alumni, College of Science & Mathematics Fresno State University
  • 2016 Principles of Community Award, College of Biol. Sci.
  • 2012 Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science[21]
  • 2009 Inaugural Doctor of Science, (honoris causa) Nara Institute of Science and Technology (NAIST)
  • 2008 USDA-ARS Beltsville Center Distinguished Lecturer
  • 1997 Outstanding Faculty Advisor Award, College of Biol. Sci.
  • 1988 Distinguished Service Award UC Davis
  • 1977 University of California President’s Postdoctoral Fellowship
  • 1976 National Cancer Institute Postdoctoral Fellowship

Professional Societies

  • 1979 Sigma Xi Society
  • 1982 Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science, (SACNAS) Lifetime Member/Friend of the Society
  • 1989 American Society of Plant Biologists
  • 1990 Intl. Society for Plant Molecular Biology
  • 2000 American Chemical Society

Professional Service and Activities

  • 2019 Program Manager, Master Collaborative Agreement between UC Davis and Kirin Holdings Co. Limited[22]
  • 2019 Chair, UC Davis/Osaka Univ. Faculty - Grad Student Exchange Program Steering Committee
  • 2017 Member, Dean’s Advisory Board, College Sci. & Math. CSU Fresno
  • 2017 Member, UC Davis NIH PREP Internal Advisory Committee and Stirring Committee
  • 2012 Member and Co-Principle Investigator, NSF ADVANCE/CAMPOS Executive Committee
  • 2015 Presenter, US President’s Council of Advisors for Science and Technology (PCAST)[23]
  • 2012 Member, College of Biological Science Faculty Personnel Committee
  • 2010 Member, Task Force on the Future of UC Davis
  • 2007-2008 Chair, Committee of Visitors, NSF Directorate for Biol. Sci., Plant Genome Research Program 3-Year Review
  • 2007 Member, American Dietetic Association/ Nutritional Genomics Education Committee
  • 2006 Member, NIH Roadmap for Biomedical Research 3-Year Review Committee
  • 2006-2008 Member, Conflict of Interest Committee, UC Davis Office of Research
  • 2005 Member/Mentor, Advisory Committee, BIRCWH Program, UC Davis Medical Center
  • 2007 Member, UC Davis Foods for Health Director Search Committee
  • 2004 Member, UC Davis Foods for Health Implementation Committee
  • 2005 Member UC Davis Public School of Health Planning Committee
  • 2003 Member, Bristol Meyers Squibb, Freedom to Discover Grant Advisory Committee
  • 2002 Member, Advisory Council, National Center for Minority Health and Health Disparities
  • 2002 Member, Executive Committee, California Institute for Food and Agricultural Research (CIFAR)
  • 2002 Chair, Advisory Council, National Center for Minority Health and Health Disparities
  • 2001 Chair, Advisory Committee for the NIH Office for Research on Minority Health
  • 1999 Member, Fulbright Fellowship Committee, UC Davis Office of Graduate Studies
  • 1999 Chair, Strategic Planning Committee for the NIH Office on Research on Minority Health
  • 1997 Member, Genetics Graduate Group Admissions Committee
  • 1992 Member, Executive Committee, UC Davis Biotechnology Program
  • 1992 Chair, Fulbright/Rhodes Fellowship Committee, UC Davis Office of Graduate Studies
  • 1992 Director, Professors for the Future Program, UC Davis Office of Graduate Studies
  • 1992 Member, Executive Committee, U.C. Biotechnology Research and Education Program
  • 1992 Co-Director, UC Davis Summer Undergraduate Research Program in Science and Engineering (SURPRISE), Office of Graduate Studies
  • 1993 Member, External Review Panel for the Biology/Biotechnology Programs at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
  • 1991 Chair, External Review Panel for the Norwegian Agricultural Biotechnology Program
  • 1991 Member, Program Planning Committee, Molecular Agriculture for the Pacific Rim Conference
  • 1990 Member, Organizing Committee, International Workshop for Rice Molecular Biology
  • 1990 Visiting Scientist, Human Genome Project, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
  • 1989 Chair, International Rice Genome Organization
  • 1989 Member, Biology Program Review Committee University of California, Santa Cruz
  • 1986 Member, Review Panel for the UC President's Fellowship Program
  • 1986 Member Program Review Committee for the NIH—Joint MBRS/MARC Symposia
  • 1985 Member, UC Davis Agricultural Issues Center Advisory Committee
  • 1984 Director, Summer Undergraduate Affirmative Action Research Program, UC Davis
  • 1981 Chair, UC Davis Graduate Admissions Committee for the Genetics Graduate Group
  • 1980 Chair, UC Davis Biological Hazards Safety Committee
  • 1980 Member, Summer Undergraduate Affirmative Action Research Program, UC Davis
  • 1984 Member, UC Davis Regent's Fellowship Committee

Outside activities

  • 2014-2020 Vice President, Humanity Beyond Barriers[24]
  • 2011 Consultant, Institute for the Future, Palo Alto
  • 2000 Founder, Chairman and CEO, Davis Bioscience Group, LLC
  • 1999 Member, Board of Directors, Ventria Bioscience Inc.,
  • 1997 Member, Board of Directors, Yolo County Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Center (Empower Yolo)
  • 1993-2000 Founder and Chairman of the Board, Ventria Bioscience Inc. (formally Applied Phytologics Inc.)


  1. University of California, Davis. (2019b, November 26). Raymond L. Rodriguez. College of Biological Sciences. https://biology.ucdavis.edu/people/raymond-rodriguez
  2. Neve, R.L., R.W. West and R.L. Rodriguez. 1979. Eukaryotic DNA fragments which act as promoters for a plasmid gene. Nature 277:324-325.
  3. West, R.W., Jr., R.L. Neve and R.L. Rodriguez. 1979. Construction and characterization of E. coli promoter-probe plasmid vectors. I. Cloning promoter-containing DNA fragments. Gene 7:271.
  4. University of California, Davis. (2019, September 23) https://che.engineering.ucdavis.edu/directory/somen-nandi Somen Nandi]
  5. Global HealthShare Initiative. (n.d.) http://ghs.ucdavis.edu/member-raymond.shtml Raymond Rodriguez, Ph.D. Executive Director]
  6. University of Utah. (2004, September 14). Davern, Cedric I., Ph.D. History of the Health Sciences. https://collections.lib.utah.edu/ark:/87278/s6zs65pf
  7. Rodriguez, R. L., Dalbey, M. S., & Davern, C. I. (1974). Autoradiographic evidence for bidirectional DNA replication in escherichia coli. Journal of Molecular Biology, 74(4), 599–602. https://doi.org/10.1016/0022-2836(73)90050-8
  8. Rodriguez, R.L., M.S. Dalbey and C.I. Davern. 1973. Autoradiographic evidence for bidirectional DNA replication in E. coli. J. Mol. Biol. 74:599-604.
  9. Chang TT. Conservation of rice genetic resources: luxury or necessity? Science. 1984 Apr 20;224(4646):251-6. doi: 10.1126/science.224.4646.251. PMID: 17734902.
  10. University of California, Davis. (2020, April 1). Professors for the Future - About. GradPathways Institute for Professional Development. https://gradpathways.ucdavis.edu/pftf-about
  11. Corbin, J.M., Kailemia, M. J., Cadieux, L. C., Alkanaimsh, S., Karuppanan, K., Rodriguez, R.L., Lebrilla, C.B., Cerasoli, D.M., McDonald, K.A., and Nandi, S. 2018. Purification, Characterization, and N-glycosylation of Recombinant Butyrylcholinesterase from Transgenic Rice Cell Suspension Cultures. Biotechnology and Bioengineering, 1-10. DOI: 10.1002/bit.26557
  12. Cal State LA. (2017, January 10). MBRS-RISE Undergraduate Scholars Program. https://www.calstatela.edu/centers/moreprograms/rise/rise.htm
  13. National Institute of General Medical Sciences. (n.d.). Maximizing Access to Research Careers (MARC) Awards (T34). Retrieved September 26, 2020, from https://www.nigms.nih.gov/training/marc/pages/ustarawards.aspx
  14. National Institutes of Health. (n.d.). [ https://orwh.od.nih.gov/career-development-education/building-interdisciplinary-research-careers-womens-health-bircwh#:~:text=The%20Building%20Interdisciplinary%20Research%20Careers,health%20and%20sex%2Ddifferences%20research. Building Interdisciplinary Research Careers in Women’s Health (BIRCWH)]. National Institutes of Health: Office of Research on Women’s Health. Retrieved September 26, 2020, from https://orwh.od.nih.gov/career-development-education/building-interdisciplinary-research-careers-womens-health-bircwh#:%7E:text=The%20Building%20Interdisciplinary%20Research%20Careers,health%20and%20sex%2Ddifferences%20research.
  15. National Institute of General Medical Sciences. (n.d.-b). Postbaccalaureate Research Education Program (PREP) (R25). Retrieved September 26, 2020, from https://www.nigms.nih.gov/training/PREP
  16. National Science Foundation. (n.d.). [ADVANCE: Organizational Change for Gender Equity in STEM Academic Professions. Retrieved September 26, 2020, from https://www.nsf.gov/funding/pgm_summ.jsp?pims_id=5383
  17. University of California, Davis. (2013, February 26). [CAMPOS Initiative. UC Davis ADVANCE. https://ucd-advance.ucdavis.edu/campos
  18. Global HealthShare. (2013a, July 16). [Girls Who Code Summer Update. Global HealthShare Initiative. https://globalhealthshare.wordpress.com/2013/07/15/girls-who-code-summer-update/
  19. Empower Yolo. (n.d.). https://empoweryolo.org/
  20. Osaka University. (n.d.). [Suita campus. 大阪大学. Retrieved September 27, 2020, from https://www.osaka-u.ac.jp/en/access/suita
  21. Allen, S. (2014, October 1). [5 Things About Me: Molecular Biologist Ray Rodriguez. American Association for the Advancement of Science. https://www.aaas.org/5-things-about-me-molecular-biologist-ray-rodriguez
  22. University of California, Davis. (n.d.). Kirin Joins Osaka University and UC Davis to Train the Next Generation of Plant Biotechnologists. UC Davis Grad Studies. Retrieved September 27, 2020, from https://grad.ucdavis.edu/news/kirin-joins-osaka-university-and-uc-davis-train-next-generation-plant-biotechnologists
  23. US Department of Energy. (2020, June 24). President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST). Office of Science. https://science.osti.gov/About/PCAST
  24. Humanity Beyond Barriers. (n.d.). About Us – Humanity Beyond Barriers. Retrieved September 27, 2020, from https://www.humanitybeyondbarriers.org/about-us/#\

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