Joachim Messing


Nick Romanenko

Joachim Messing, a pioneer of DNA sequencing who developed techniques that enabled scientists to study the essence of viruses, enhance the yield of crops, and understand the development of cancer in humans, died on September 13. The director of the Waksman Institute of Microbiology at Rutgers since 1988, Messing, 73, was known among scientists for developing the “shotgun sequencing” of DNA. Messing’s method allowed genetic information to be decoded much faster, enabling researchers to investigate larger, more complex genomes. 

Messing, a member of the National Academy of Sciences in the United States, led several sequencing undertakings that helped in understanding the genetics of corn, rice, and other crops. His findings enabled scientists to engineer varieties of corn with higher levels of the amino acids lysine and methionine, which are vital proteins for humans; other studies led to developing crops that were more pest-resistant and resilient to drought. Messing never patented his work. He wanted scientists worldwide to benefit from his discoveries in their own quests to benefit humanity.