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Alan Waggoner

Photo of Alan Waggoner.

Alan Waggoner is currently Professor of Biological Sciences at Carnegie Mellon University and Director of the Molecular Biosensor and Imaging Center. He is distinguished by his research on the development of fluorescence-based detection systems for biology and biotechnology, which have played a central role in advancing research across the world. The cyanine dye fluorescent labeling reagents developed in Waggoner’s laboratory have become widely used in industry and academic research for multicolor analysis of proteins, nucleic acids, cells and tissues with imaging microscopes and flow cytometers. Recently, Waggoner’s group developed new fluorescent markers to detect fundamental components of life (DNA, carbohydrates, lipids and proteins). These markers have been integrated into a transportable unit for remote use in harsh environments, such as space.

Waggoner earned his undergraduate degree at the University of Colorado and his Ph.D. at the University of Oregon. After completing postdoctoral work at Yale University, Waggoner was an associate professor and then chairman of the Department of Chemistry at Amherst College before coming to Carnegie Mellon in 1982. In 1992, Waggoner left Carnegie Mellon to become vice chairman of Biological Detection Systems Inc., a Pittsburgh startup that sold microscope imaging systems and fluorescent-labeling reagents developed at Carnegie Mellon. In 1994, this startup was bought by Amersham PLC. Waggoner joined that company as principal scientist and head of fluorescence to promote a transition from radioactive to fluorescence detection products. Amersham still holds the active license to the dyes and their related products, which remain the intellectual property of Carnegie Mellon. In May 1999, when Amersham consolidated its acquisitions in New Jersey, Waggoner returned to Carnegie Mellon to replace Lans Taylor as director of the Center for Light Microscope Imaging and Biotechnology. This became the Molecular Biosensor and Imaging Center (MBIC), which under Waggoner’s leadership was designated by the National Institutes of Health as a Technology Center for Networks and Pathways in April 2006.

Waggoner, who holds more than 15 patents, received the 1999 Technical Achievement Award from the Society for Biomolecular Screening and the 2001 Award of Excellence for Biomedical-Scientist/Engineer from the Carnegie Science Center and the Pittsburgh Technology Council. He is a member of the American Society for Cell Biology, the International Tissue Engineering Society and the Society for Biomolecular Screening.