Adding Value to The Field of Biotechnology and Nutritional Sciences, Dr. Roberto Crea
(Photo : Adding Value to The Field of Biotechnology and Nutritional Sciences, Dr. Roberto Crea)

Science has expanded and advanced itself in various fields and has proven its importance time and again. One of the most successful expansions that science has made in the last 50 years is 'Biotechnology.' It has improved human lives and saved millions. According to statistics, biotechnology has helped millions of people with more than 230 new biotech drugs and vaccines.

Today biotechnology is also responsible for hundreds of medical diagnostics that keep humans safe from harmful diseases by several vaccines that combat the pandemic caused by Covid-19.  A notable personality who has made vital contributions to the field of biotechnology is Dr. Roberto Crea, an Italian scientist who immigrated to the USA in 1977. His contribution to creating human insulin in the laboratory has been instrumental when he joined and became one of the scientific co-founders and first Director of DNA Chemistry at Genentech, Inc. His career today includes over 40 years of experience in Biotechnology and Nutritional Sciences. 

Roberto studied Biological Chemistry at the University of Pavia in Italy and graduated in the summer of 1972. To specialize in this field, he chose the University of Leiden. Here he discovered the unique science of the synthesis of DNA and RNA. Roberto's innovative ways in this new field of Chemistry caught the eye of Genentech, Inc. They offered him to contribute as a group member of the Gene synthesis team at City of Hope Medical School, in California, in 1977. Here he invented some crucial improvements in DNA synthesis that led to the production of the first human insulin from bacteria and has been known as one of the fathers of synthetic recombinant insulin ever since.

Crea's unique knowledge and creativity in science aided and improved the lives of many. Millions of insulin-dependent diabetics worldwide were allergic to animal insulin, so Roberto's and his colleagues' creation revolutionized such patients' lives. The production of human insulin from bacteria became a great milestone in Medicine and started an entire industry, Biotechnology. Due to his life-changing discovery, Roberto and his colleague Dr. David Goeddell, molecular biologist, had almost won the Nobel Prize. 

This genius individual has had a profound experience in the field of academics as well.  Due to his vast knowledge and fundamental discoveries, he had been appointed as a professor at many institutes such as the University of Messina as Professor of Molecular Genetics and faculty member of Chemistry Gorlaeus Laboratoria Leiden University as Associate Professor in DNA Chemical Synthesis. Dr. Crea has authored more than 45 patents in the USA, and his prolific scientific activity continues at Protelica, Inc. and Oliphenol LLC.

A Successful Entrepreneur

Roberto Crea had the vision to add value and bring improvements to the lives of the people. As a successful scientist, he soon realized that the value of discoveries often requires a lifetime commitment to their successful commercial development. He then started his entrepreneurial career and building his team of skilled individuals to work relentlessly for a noble cause and come up with something spectacular that would aid humankind.

In 1982, his drive to make helpful contributions to society led him to lay the foundation of his first biotech venture. 'Creative BioMolecules Inc' a company based in Hopkinton in Massachusetts. This company aimed to develop healthcare products for soft and hard tissue repair (bone repair). His team was also the first in the world to invent a single-chain antibody, a modern and widely used process to improve the performance of Monoclonal Antibodies. In 1990 the company merged into Curis, Inc., a publicly-traded company (Nasdaq: CRIS).

Soon after, Dr. Crea founded Creagen, Inc., based in Massachusetts in the USA. This was a Biotechnology company that operated with recombinant proteins with superior binding properties, including the first synthesis of libraries of engineered Monoclonal Antibodies by developing Intelligent Mutagenesis to optimize the clinical performance of these valuable proteins. Dr. Crea was responsible for the overall company business, its scientific directions, and technology development. Creagen Inc. merged with Neurex Corporation, a publicly-traded company, in July 1994.

Roberto was also the founder, president, and CEO of Bioren Inc. This biotechnology company focused on using proprietary DNA mutagenesis technology to design and produce antibodies for diagnostic and therapeutic use. The company was sold to Pfizer, Inc. in August of 2005.

He has also founded CreAgri, Inc., Allevium Therapeutics, Inc., and Protelica Inc., all based in California in the USA. He founded these companies intending to discover natural bio actives (olive polyphenols) and antibody mimics (PronectinsTM) to cure neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's, and cancer.

Efforts to Make the World Sustainable

The researcher did not want to stop his magnificent thinking abilities and is always on the outlook for ideas that would bring a change to the world and give birth to a sustainable invention. Roberto has an inventor's eye and observes many things from a different perspective. While traveling in his native Italy, he spotted a machine that pit olives before pressing. Roberto obtained a purer oil that was clean from the deleterious and bitter residues from the pits. As a clever individual, he discovered that vegetable water, i.e., olives' juice, is rich in natural antioxidants, beneficial for the human body. He discovered a new process to harvest them in industrial quantities and study them for their unique anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial activities.

Immediately he was struck with the idea of launching this dietary supplement in the American markets. This would be a concentrate of antioxidants that would prevent aging and arteriosclerosis. A single tablet of this natural extract would be equivalent to a half-liter of the oil and contain a proportionate amount of antioxidants.

So, to bring his idea to life, Roberto Crea started collaborating with scientists in the nutritional field, including Italian scientists worldwide renowned for Parkinson's and other neurodegenerative diseases. They aim to valorize and recover agricultural waste products. Their primary focus is the processing of olives and obtaining polyphenols, which work best for a living organism's health.

Today Roberto Crea is also a renowned name in Nutritional Science and is a recipient of the Ottorino Rossi International Award for neurosciences discoveries. With his award-winning work and his dedication to make the world a better place, Roberto Crea has set an example for the youth aspiring to work in these fields.

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