Francisco Gonzalo Bolivar-Zapata

Gonzalo Bolivar-Zapata photo

Doctor in Chemistry from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), where he is a Professor and Researcher Emeritus. Founding director of the UNAM Center for Research on Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, established in 1982. In 1991, UNAM turned this Center into its Institute of Biotechnology, appointing Bolivar as its first director, a position he held until 1997. That year he was designated as Dean of UNAM Scientific Research, a post he held for three years. From 1996 to 2000, he served as Vice-President and President of the Mexican Academy of Sciences. He was also a member of the UNAM Governing Board from 2002 to March 2012.

He has engaged in groundbreaking research and technological development at the international level in the area of molecular biology and biotechnology, particularly in the isolation, characterization and manipulation of genes in microorganisms. Bolívar-Zapata was a member of a group of researchers in San Francisco, California, which was the first to successfully produce human proteins in bacteria through genetic engineering in 1977, where he worked at Genentech Inc. in the development of bacterial strains producing transgenic human somatostacin and insulin, using organic synthetized DNA. His later work in the area of metabolic pathway engineering in microorganisms permitted genetic modification of bacterial physiology for the design and optimization of microorganisms that produce metabolites and proteins of social and commercial interest.

Dr. Bolivar has over 240 publications cited over 14,500 times in the literature. He has supervised over 60 theses and many of his former students are now research fellows and technicians at national and international institutions. He has written and published books for both the specialist and non-specialist, including five volumes of his scientific work as a member of El Colegio Nacional (Mexican Collège).

He has frequently appeared before Mexican Congress and various Presidents of Mexico, to defend and promote science, technology, public universities and biotechnology.

He has received several honors and awards, among which: the Natural Science Research Prize, awarded by the AMC in 1982. The Manuel Noriega Science and Technology Award, awarded by the Organization of American States (OAS) in 1988. The National University Prize from UNAM, of which he was a recipient in 1990. The Prince of Asturias Award in 1991 for Technical and Scientific Research, granted by Spain's Prince of Asturias Foundation. The National Science and Arts Prize, awarded by the Mexican Government in 1992. The TWAS Award in the field of biology, granted by the Third World Academy of Sciences in Italy in 1997. The University of Liège, Belgium, and the Autonomous Metropolitan University (UAM) have conferred honorary doctorates on him. He has been a member of the Mexican National System of Researchers (SNI), Level III, since 1984 and as for 2014 the SNI conferred him the Emeritus title. Since 1994 he is member of El Colegio Nacional, Mexican institution that includes only 40 chairs occupied by distinguished Mexicans in all fields of knowledge, arts and literature. He has been a member of the Governing Board of the National Council for Science and Technology (CONACYT) since 2007. He has been Coordinator of the Biotechnology Committee of the Mexican Academy of Sciences since its inception in 2000.

In 2013, President Peña-Nieto created for the first time the Coordination for Science, Technology and Innovation at the President’s Office and appointed Francisco Bolívar as its Head, from April 2013 to September 2015.