Boris Rotman, Ph.D.
Chief Scientific Officer-Vice President
Founder of BCR Diagnostics, Inc., Boris Rotman is an American immunologist–molecular biologist and professor emeritus of Medical Science at Alpert Medical School of Brown University. He is widely recognized for performing the first single molecule experiments in biology (Wikipedia).
In 1961, Rotman developed a system capable of measuring enzymatic activity of individual molecules of beta-galactosidase and used it to conduct the first single-molecule experiment in biology.
These early experiments remained obscure for more than 30 years, but they are now recognized as pioneering and highly influential. A recent review states, “Indeed, this paper is the origin not only of the field of single-molecule enzymology, but also of much subsequent single-molecule research.” The significance of single-molecule experiments derives from their capacity to provide fundamental insights that are not attainable by conventional experimentation.
Early in his career, he was the first to synthesize derivatives of fluorescein as fluorogenic substrates for extending the sensitivity of enzymatic assays. Fluorogenic substrates are non-fluorescent molecules yielding fluorescent products upon enzymatic cleavage.
Using a fluorogenic substrate of β-galactosidase, he pioneered the concept that reducing the reaction volume to picoliters allows for measuring the activity of single enzyme molecules. In the past decade, this concept has found clinical applications for ultrasensitive testing.
An unexpected by-product of using fluorogenic substrates was the discovery of a general cellular phenomenon known as Fluorochromasia (Wikipedia). His laboratory was the first to apply fluorochromasia for quantitative measurements of antibody-mediated cytotoxicity of tumor cells.
In addition, the discovery of activating antibodies in his laboratory opened the field of conformational antibodies, i.e., immunoglobulins that induce conformational changes in proteins.
In 1990, Rotman received the Award for Scientific Achievement from the Governor of Rhode Island.
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