New England Biolabs® Announces the 2023 Donald G. Comb Memorial Lectureship Recipient

IPSWICH, Mass. — Named in honor of the founder and first Chief Executive Officer of New England Biolabs (NEB®), Donald Comb, this annual lectureship recognizes those who have pioneered basic research, with substantial impact on molecular biology, to address issues affecting the world at large.

This year’s honoree is Jo Handelsman, the Director of the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. A renowned microbiologist who is known for coining the term “metagenomics,” Dr. Handelsman seeks to understand how microorganisms cooperate with and antagonize each other. To this end, Dr. Handelsman’s lab studies model microbial communities, enabling them to isolate individual microbial interactions – otherwise impossible within the complex web of a native microbiome. Further, her lab has pioneered the use of functional metagenomics to study antibiotic resistance determinants in unculturable microbial communities from the moth gut to soil in the remote reaches of Alaska. Dr. Handelsman’s work has also described how microbiomes impact and interact with their hosts, such as the relationship between plants and their soil microbiota. Dr. Handelsman has co-authored over 200 scientific articles and 6 books on teaching, as well as a new book A World Without Soil (2021) detailing the global soil erosion crisis. She is also an advocate for STEM education and increasing diversity and inclusion in the sciences through her worldwide organization Tiny Earth, which creates accessible antibiotic discovery research experiences.

In recognition of these accomplishments, Dr. Handelsman has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the National Academy of Inventors. She also received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring from President Obama in 2011. In addition to her roles at UW-Madison, Dr. Handelsman also served as science advisor to President Obama in her role as Associate Director for Science in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy from 2014-17.

“Dr. Handelsman is a worthy recipient of the Donald G. Comb Memorial Lectureship,” said Thomas C. Evans, Jr., Ph.D. and Executive Director of Research at NEB. “Her work in functional genomics and microbial science embodies NEB’s core values of collaboration, scientific mentorship and rigorous scientific work.”

The Donald G. Comb Memorial Lectureship will take place at NEB Headquarters in Ipswich, MA, on October 12th, 2023, at 11AM ET. Visit our registration page to participate in the livestream event.

In 1974, NEB was founded as a cooperative of scientists, with the aim of developing research tools to accelerate basic science, while using the profits to fund its own basic research program. Fifty years later, basic research remains a priority, with over 30 laboratories working in areas, including enzyme analysis and engineering, epigenetics, RNA biology and parasitology. To learn more about NEB’s research program, visit

About New England Biolabs

New England Biolabs, Inc. is the industry leader in the discovery and production of enzymes for molecular biology applications and now offers the largest selection of recombinant and native enzymes for genomic research. NEB continues to expand its product offerings into areas related to PCR, gene expression, library preparation for next generation sequencing, cellular analysis, epigenetics and RNA analysis. Additionally, NEB is focused on strengthening alliances that enable new technologies to reach key market sectors. New England Biolabs is a privately held company, headquartered in Ipswich, MA, and has extensive worldwide distribution through a network of exclusive distributors, agents and eight subsidiaries located in AustraliaCanadaChinaFranceGermanyJapanSingapore, and the UK. For more information about New England Biolabs visit

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