2016 BioGENEius Hall of Fame Awardee
Johnny Fells, III
Jersey City, NJ
Johnny Fells is a recent graduate of Columbia University in New York City with a B.S. in Industrial Engineering and including numerous internship activities with startup companies focused on strategy, consumer engagement, and operational efficiency. Johnny’s affiliation with the BioGENEius program is almost as long as his university career! His research interests in high school spanned plant and mammalian biology. Like many BioGENEius finalists, Johnny has been recognized by others as well. In 2008, his plant sciences research in synseed technology, a highly promising tool for the management of certain plants that are difficult to propagate through conventional methods, earned him 1st place at the Georgia Science and Engineering Fair and the National Society of Black Engineers Pre-Collegiate Science Fair. Additionally, he received 2nd place at the National Organization of the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers Science Fair and was recognized as a finalist at the 2008 Intel ISEF.
Johnny’s interests in agricultural biotechnology led to an expansion of application in 2009, where at BioGENEius, he presented his research related to plants of the genus Scutellaria which constitute one of the common components of Eastern as well as traditional American medicine against various human diseases, including cancer. He discovered that certain leaf extracts from different species of Scutellaria could inhibit the Akt/PKB kinase pathway responsible for cell survival and growth in glioma cells. His work prefaced that of others now investigating novel small molecule derivatives as inhibitors of metastatic growth.
Although he is currently pursuing a career path on “Wall Street”, he was indelibly inspired by his science mentors and his participation through BioGENEius at White House Science Fair - meeting President Barak Obama “who urged all students to show the potential of young minds and how the world can benefit”. Since then, Johnny has dedicated his free time to engage, excite and inspire young researchers in biotechnology by acting as a science fair judge, student mentor, inspirational speaker and even granting special awards (his personal program) for students in less advantaged STEM educational environments. He exemplifies “giving back.”
Johnny Fells has shown us that exposure to science has not only a long lasting personal effect, but also one that propagates and can continue to positively affect younger generations – the future leaders in biotechnology. So it is with great pleasure that we recognize Johnny with the 2016 BioGENEius Hall of Fame Award.