Villa-Komaroff felt that these failures aided in her biggest victory: six months later she was able to return to Harvard (once the ban on recombinant DNA experiments was lifted in 1977), where she became a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Nobel Laureate Walter Gilbert. Within 6 months, she was the first author of the landmark report from the Gilbert laboratory showing that bacteria could be induced to make proinsulin– the first time a mammalian hormone was synthesized by bacteria. The research was a milestone in the birth of the biotechnology industry.
In 1995 a television documentary called “DNA Detective” featured her work on insulin-related growth factors. The segment ran as part of a six-part PBS series on women in science, under the umbrella title Discovering Women.
In 1996 Dr. Villa-Komaroff left laboratory research and was recruited to Northwestern University where she served as Vice President for Research…. In 2003 she returned to Boston, where she became the Vice President for Research and Chief Operating Officer of Whitehead Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts, an affiliated research institute of MIT. Since 2005 she has served as a senior executive and board member of several biotechnology companies. She also continues to serve on the boards and committees of several major public and private institutions.
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