Dr. Frances Ligler Receives Distinguished Presidential Rank Award

6/17/2004 - 26-04r
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Dr. Frances Ligler, Senior Scientist for Biosensors and Biomaterials at the Naval Research Laboratory's Center for Bio/Molecular Science and Engineering (CBMSE), is a recipient of the 2003 Presidential Rank Award of Distinguished Senior Professional. The 2003 awards were the first to include the senior professional category, recognizing members of the Scientific and Professional Corps, as well as those from the Senior Executive Service. Winners of this prestigious award are strong leaders, professionals, and scientists who achieve results and consistently demonstrate strength, integrity, industry, and a relentless commitment to excellence in public service. Dr. Ligler's nomination clearly defines her "creative ability to invent with the leadership skills to bring her inventions to products of importance to the Department of Defense and the Nation."

Dr. Ligler has pioneered the development of ultra-sensitive antibody-based detection systems for biological agent detection. Her work has had a profound impact upon the development of biosensor-based detection of biological warfare agents over the past 15 years, leading to significant improvements in the Nation's capability for early and accurate detection. During this time, Dr. Ligler has led the development of detection systems based on optical biosensor technology; and demonstrated identification of biological warfare agents, monitoring of environmental pollutants, food safety analysis, diagnosis of infectious disease, and detection of explosives. Four of these biosensors are commercially available, and two more systems are under commercial development. Further, both small businesses in the U.S. and large international corporations have adopted technologies based on Dr. Ligler's patents.

Dr. Ligler has a proven track record for systems used in the field. She developed the first portable sensor for biological warfare agents, which has been used on the ground and in unmanned airborne vehicles; an Environmental Protection Agency-approved method for monitoring pollution at Superfund sites; and a commercially available biosensor for on-site testing for drugs of abuse in saliva. Biosensors developed by Dr. Ligler have also been used in Bahrain to test water supplies delivered to Navy ships. The underlying technology for the RAPTOR biosensor was developed under Dr. Ligler's leadership. Now in commercial production in the U.S. and purchased by Britain and Germany, RAPTOR was the highest rated biosensor system in recent NATO tests. Currently, the US Department of Agriculture is evaluating the RAPTOR for detection of threats to the grain crop and meat supply.

In addition to conducting groundbreaking science, Dr. Ligler has demonstrated her ability to bring people together. She has participated in wide-ranging collaborations, including the demonstration of liposome encapsulation of hemoglobin as a blood substitute, the integration of biological molecules into optoelectronic devices (biosensors), thin film biomaterials for metal detection, and proteomic/genomic analysis of marine bacteria. Dr. Ligler also led a consortium of personnel from industry and Department of Defense laboratories that produced and tested sensors for botulinum toxin and anthrax during Desert Storm. She has served as both a U.S. representative and delegation head for NATO Panel 33 (Automated Biosensors).

Dr. Ligler has worked to promote the interests of other scientists at NRL, creating a network of women scientists at the Laboratory and, in 1995, initiating a Lab-wide mentorship program for young scientists that is still active today. Additionally, Dr. Ligler has created opportunities for undergraduate research at NRL and trained graduate and postgraduate students.

Dr. Ligler earned a B.Sc. from Furman University in South Carolina, and a D.Phil. and a D.Sc. from Oxford University. She has published over 200 full-length articles in scientific journals, which have been cited over 3,000 times, published two books, and has 16 U.S. and two foreign patents issued and one U.S. patent allowed.

Prior to joining NRL in 1985, Dr. Ligler performed basic and clinical research in immunology in both academics and industry. In 2002, Dr. Ligler was the American representative on the organizing committee for the International Biosensors Congress in Kyoto, Japan, delivering the plenary lecture. She was elected to the permanent organization committee on the European Conference on Optical Sensors (UK 2002, Spain 2004, Germany 2006.) She is editor for North and South America for the leading biosensors journal, Biosensors & Bioelectronics. She is the winner of the Navy Superior Civilian Service Medal, the National Drug Control Policy Technology Transfer Award, the Chemical Society Hillebrand Award, Navy Merit Award, three NRL Edison Awards for Patent of the Year, and the national Women in Science an Engineering Outstanding Achievement in Science Award, among many other awards. She is also an elected Fellow of the Society of Photo-optical Instrumentation Engineering. In 2003 she was a winner of the Christopher Columbus Foundation's Award for Homeland Security.

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