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Stephen C. Ekker, Ph.D.


Stephen C. Ekker, Ph.D., is a professor of pediatrics and associate dean of innovation and entrepreneurship at Dell Medical School, and associate vice president for research translation at The University of Texas at Austin. He also serves as a professor in the Department of Molecular Biosciences in UT’s College of Natural Sciences.

Ekker is a genome engineer and entrepreneur who uses zebra fish in vivo and human cells in vitro to develop new molecular DNA editing tools to understand our genome and create new therapeutics. He leads the development of key innovation and entrepreneurship education and applications within Dell Med and collaboratively across the University.

He has performed gene editing for three decades at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Johns Hopkins University, University of Minnesota and Mayo Clinic. He was previously the dean of the Mayo Clinic Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. He was also was the founder and inaugural director of the Mayo Clinic Office of Entrepreneurship and is a strong advocate of the bench-to-business-to-bedside model of research translation.

Ekker is also an inventor and has been continuously funded by the National Institutes of Health for more than two decades. He has co-authored over 170 scientific publications and has served as the founding president of the Genome Writers Guild — a nonprofit international genome engineering society — and president of the Zebrafish Disease Models Society. As an entrepreneur, he co-founded his first company, Discovery Genomics Inc., which was acquired by Immusoft in 2016 for key technology that now conducts first-in-class human gene therapy based on programmed B cells.

Ekker was the scientific advisor for Opentrons Labworks while the startup went from accelerator to unicorn, and is the scientific founder of Primera Therapeutics, which focuses on developing therapies for patients with mitochondrial disease. As CEO of LifEngine Technologies Inc., Ekker is a scientific co-founder, investor and director of LifEngine Animal Health (LEAH) Laboratories, which focuses on making new therapies for companion animals and their humans; it is the first gene editing company out of the prestigious Y Combinator startup incubator.

Professional Affiliations
  • Genome Writers Guild
    President, 2017-2019
  • Zebrafish Disease Models Society
    President, 2016-2017
  • American Association for the Advancement of Science
  • Genetics Society of America
  • International Zebrafish Society