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Eleftherios (Terry) Papoutsakis
Eleftherios (Terry) Papoutsakis is being recognized for contributions to metabolic engineering.

Papoutsakis elected to National Academy of Engineering

Photo by Evan Krape

Chemical engineer joins top engineering ranks

Eleftherios (Terry) Papoutsakis, Unidel Eugene du Pont Chair of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the University of Delaware, has been elected to the National Academy of Engineering (NAE).

He was selected “for contributions to metabolic engineering, especially the industrial biotechnology of Clostridia, and to biomanufacturing of therapeutic proteins.” Clostridia are industrial organisms that Papoutsakis’ lab has worked on for many years to develop their industrial applications.

Membership in NAE is among the highest professional honors an engineer can receive. Papoutsakis is one of 83 new members and 16 foreign members selected this year, as announced Feb. 7 in a press release. There are now 2,293 U.S. members and 262 foreign members of NAE. Papoutsakis and other members of the newly elected class will be formally inducted during a ceremony at the NAE's annual meeting in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 30.

“The impact for which one gets this kind of recognition comes from the collective effort of so many,” said Papoutsakis. “It reflects largely the creativity, good work, sleepless nights, long days and work weekends of a large number of past and current lab members, some 60-plus doctoral students, 30-plus postdocs and many, many master’s degree students and undergraduate students, and the road we traveled together, the risks we took and our failures, which showed us the way to success. But it also reflects on our teachers, our mentors and our collaborators, and our families that supported and support this wonderful voyage of exploration in science and engineering to do good, teach and bring out the best of human nature.”

Papoutsakis joins seven other UD faculty members and emeritus faculty as members of the NAE: Norm Wagner, Unidel Robert L. Pigford Chair in Chemical Engineering (2015); Babatunde Ogunnaike, dean of the College of Engineering (2012); UD President Dennis Assanis, who is also professor of mechanical engineering (2008); David L. Mills, professor emeritus of electrical and computer engineering (2008); Dominic Di Toro, Edward C. Davis Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering (2005); Stanley Sandler, H.B. du Pont Chair of Chemical Engineering (1996); and T.W. Fraser Russell, Allan P. Colburn Professor Emeritus of Chemical Engineering (1990).  

“The University of Delaware is incredibly fortunate to have an excellent teacher and prolific scholar like Terry, an exemplary UD citizen who contributes so generously to his academic field as well as to our entire academic community,” Assanis said. “Election to the NAE is one of the highest distinctions in the engineering profession, so congratulations to Terry on this much-deserved honor.”

“Terry is a pioneer in the field of metabolic and cell-culture engineering whose discoveries have touched countless lives,” said Ogunnaike. “His work to understand cellular processes has had significant impact on medicine, biomanufacturing, biofuels, and countless other fields. He is more than deserving of this long-overdue recognition from the National Academy of Engineering."

Groundbreaking work in metabolic and cell-culture engineering

Papoutsakis has had a profound influence on the field of biotechnology. He has published more than 275 refereed publications that have garnered 17,864 citations, according to Google Scholar. He has also co-edited two books that have had a significant impact on the field: Foundations of Biochemical Engineering: Kinetics and Thermodynamics in Biological Systems (ACS Symposium Series No. 207, 1983) and Metabolic Engineering (Marcel Dekker, 1999).

His work has also found commercial success. He has filed 20 patents and started two successful companies. Tissue Therapeutics, which developed bioreactors for research and development and therapeutics, was sold to Resodyn Corp in 2001, and Elcriton, which developed microbial-based technologies, was sold to White Dog Labs in 2014.

Papoutsakis also contributes to the broader scientific community. He has served on many review boards, journal editorial boards, advisory panels and professional societies in the biochemical and biomolecular engineering communities. Currently, he is an editor at mBio, the top-tier journal of the American Society of Microbiology.

NAE is far from the only organization to honor Papoutsakis. He has received the ACS Murphree Award from American Chemical Society (2016), DIC Wang Award for Excellence in Biochemical Engineering (2013), the James E. Bailey Award for Biological Engineering (2012) and the International Metabolic Engineering Award and the Elmer Gaden Award (2010). He is also a fellow of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, the American Chemical Society, the American Academy of Microbiology, American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineers.

Papoutsakis earned his doctoral degree in chemical engineering at Purdue University. He was a faculty member at Rice University and then at Northwestern University before joining UD in 2007.


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