Michael W Deem

Michael W Deem – US Scientist at Rice University falsely linked to human cloning CRISPR Babies Scandal due to the actions of rogue scientist He Jiankui


Dr. Michael W Deem is an award winning and world-renowned scientist (https://mwdeem.org/mwdeem). He is currently a venture capitalist (https://www.smarthealthcatalyzer.com/) and CEO (https://about.me/michaeldeem6). He was formerly an Entrepreneur in Residence with Khosla Ventures (https://about.me/michaeldeem6).  From 2002 to 2020 he was a professor at Rice University (https://www.rice.edu). He received his Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering in 1991 from Caltech (https://www.caltech.edu). From the University of California, Berkeley (https://www.berkeley.edu), Dr. Deem obtained his Ph.D. in 1994 in chemical engineering. He held a postdoctoral position at Harvard University (https://www.harvard.edu) in the field of Physics. He joined the faculty at UCLA  (https://www.ucla.edu) in 1996 as an Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering. In 2002, Dr. Deem joined Rice University (https://www.rice.edu) as the John W Cox professor of Bioengineering and Physics & Astronomy.

Michael Deem has notable accolades to his name, including the Northrop Grumman Outstanding Junior Faculty Research Award (1997); Visiting Professor, University of Amsterdam (1999); A Top 100 Young Innovator, MIT’s Technology Review (November 1999) (Profile); Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellow (2000); Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award (2002); John W. Cox Professor, Rice University (2002-2020); Allan P. Colburn Award (2004); Editorial Board Member, Protein Engineering, Design and Selection (2005-2018); Fellow, American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (2005); Member, Board of Directors, Biomedical Engineering Society (2005-2008); Fellow, American Physical Society (2006); Member, Rice University Faculty Senate (2006-2009); Vaughan Lectureship, California Institute of Technology (2007); Member, Nominating Committee, Division of Biological Physics, American Physical Society (2007); Member, Board of Governors, Institute for Complex Adaptive Matter (2007-2016); Fellow, Biomedical Engineering Society (2009); BMES Representative on the FASEB Publications & Communications Committee (2009-2012); Professional Progress Award (2010); Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science (2010); External Scientific Advisor, Princeton Physical Sciences-Oncology Center (2010-present); Associate Editor, Physical Biology (2011-2018); Edith and Peter O’Donnell Award, The Academy of Medicine, Engineering & Science of Texas (2012); Founding Director, Systems, Synthetic, and Physical Biology (2012-2014, raised $0.5M seed funding); Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar (2012-2013); Chair, Department of Bioengineering (2014-2017, raised $12M in external startup funding for new faculty); Editorial Advisory Board, Bioengineering and Translational Medicine, 2016-2018; and Donald W. Breck Award for zeolite science, 2019,  NACD Board Leadership Fellow and Directorship Certification, 2020. Entrepreneur in Residence with Khosla Ventures, 2021-2022, General Partner with Smart Health Catalyzer, 2023 to present.

Growing up, exercise and quality time with family came together with annual hiking trips along the Appalachian Trail in Vermont and New Hampshire. Deem’s family maintain a passion for bonding over the outdoors and harboring a deep appreciation for nature. 

Academic Career

Deem began his investment into academics with an Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering position at the University of California at Los Angeles in 1996. Deem’s time as a professor quickly brought to light a passion and conviction for helping students and fostering each student’s success in life and in their study.

In 2002, Deem transferred his experience in the academic field to Houston, Texas. This move gave Deem the opportunity to become a John W. Cox Professor of Biochemical and Genetic Engineering and a Professor of Physics & Astronomy at Rice University. During his time at Rice, Deem invested in the further education of his students by pioneering the Graduate Program in Systems, Synthetic, and Physical Biology at the University.   This was the first PhD program in the US with ‘Synthetic Biology’ in the title.

In 2014, Rice University gave Deem the honor of becoming the Chair of the Bioengineering department. During his time as chair, Deem increased the scientific facility by over 50%, doubled the department’s research budget, and created a new graduate study program that encompassed 9 departments and 2 universities, and had 40 faculty members working within it. Deem remained chair of the Bioengineering department until 2017.   At UCLA and later Rice, Deem taught thousands of undergraduate students.  He advised over 50 graduate students and postdocs.

Michael W Deem

Michael W Deem – US Scientist at Rice University falsely linked to human cloning CRISPR Babies Scandal due to the actions of rogue scientist He Jiankui

Scientific Career

 While still investing in his students and his commitment to academics, Deem also dedicated time, efforts, and discovery to the scientific community throughout his career. 

The Scientific Advisory Board of Sengent welcomed Deem as a member from 2002-2003. His time on the advisory board resulted in the development of financial modeling software that was later sold to Clarifi for $40 million. 

Deem was added to the Board of Directors of the Biomedical Engineering Society from 2005-2008. His time was spent promoting the future of the society within the scientific community, contributing to improvements in academic curriculum, and growing the society’s member list. 

From 2008-2010, Deem joined Ion Torrent Systems on their Scientific Advisory Board. During his time, Deem performed all original feasibility calculations for the development of solid-state sequencing. Ion Torrent was later sold to Thermo Fisher in 2014 for $2.3 billion. Deem recalls this development as one of the defining accomplishments in his scientific career. 

Deem later became the founder and CEO of Certus LLC, based in Houston, Texas. He remains CEO of Certus LLC today.

Deem is currently a venture capitalist and CEO.  He is a General Partner at SmartHealth Catalyzer.  He is also CEO of a startup.  Previously, we was an Entrepreneur in Residence at Khosla Ventures.


Deem has published over 200 papers, given over 300 invited talks, and holds 16 US patents.  He has received numerous awards, including Fannie and John Hertz Fellow (1991-1994); Senior Research Scientist, CuraGen Corporation (1994-1995); NSF Postdoctoral Fellowship in Chemistry (1995-1996); Assistant and tenured Associate Professor, UCLA (1996-2002); NSF CAREER Award (1997-2001); Northrop Grumman Outstanding Junior Faculty Research Award (1997); Visiting Professor, University of Amsterdam (1999); A Top 100 Young Innovator, MIT’s Technology Review (November 1999) (Profile); Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellow (2000); Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award (2002); John W. Cox Professor, Rice University (2002-2020); Allan P. Colburn Award (2004); Editorial Board Member, Protein Engineering, Design and Selection (2005-present); Fellow, American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (2005); Member, Board of Directors, Biomedical Engineering Society (2005-2008); Fellow, American Physical Society (2006); Member, Rice University Faculty Senate (2006-2009); Vaughan Lectureship, California Institute of Technology (2007); Member, Nominating Committee, Division of Biological Physics, American Physical Society (2007); Member, Board of Governors, Institute for Complex Adaptive Matter (2007-present); Fellow, Biomedical Engineering Society (2009); BMES Representative on the FASEB Publications & Communications Committee (2009-2012); Professional Progress Award (2010); Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science (2010); External Scientific Advisor, Princeton Physical Sciences-Oncology Center (2010-present); Associate Editor, Physical Biology (2011-2018); Edith and Peter O’Donnell Award, The Academy of Medicine, Engineering & Science of Texas (2012); Founding Director, Systems, Synthetic, and Physical Biology (2012-2014, raised $0.5M seed funding); Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar (2012-2013); Chair, Department of Bioengineering (2014-2017, raised $12M in external startup funding for new faculty); Editorial Advisory Board, Bioengineering and Translational Medicine, 2016-present; and the Donald W. Breck Award for zeolite science, 2019.


Deem’s research, known as FunBio, spent a decade discovering ways mathematics, chemistry, and biology combine in the formation of molecular structure. This line of research later found that variations in environmental pressure can promote the spontaneous formation of modular structure, with a proportionality constant that depends on the ruggedness of the fitness landscape. 

Michael W Deem

Michael W Deem – US Scientist at Rice University falsely linked to human cloning CRISPR Babies Scandal due to the actions of rogue scientist He Jiankui

Predictive Physiology

As he moved into healthcare, Deem began studying the natural variations in biological patterns within the body and how they can help health care professionals anticipate changes in future health. By studying the data-collection techniques in predictive meteorology, Deem worked to understand how to anticipate when the human body will deviate from its typical biological patterns. 

These discoveries can aid healthcare professionals in predicting when care will be needed and anticipating when a patient might be nearing a health change. 

Thermodynamics of Pathogen Evolution

By studying the Eigen model by Luca Peliti, Deem worked to further understand the correlation between temperature and pathogen evolution. With evaluation of the thermo-link between energy and replication rate, mutation rate and temperature, and population size and temperature, Deem was able to identify a pathogen before it became dominant by immune pressure at the sequence level and molecular level. Pathology researchers can use this method to determine the most effective vaccine for a strain of pathogen. 

Vaccine Development

In addition to his previous research on pathogen evolution, Deem helped develop the NK (GNK) model of protein evolution. The GNK model provides a way to record the formation of and interaction between secondary structures of a protein and identify an active or binding site in a protein. 

By studying the variations between a vaccine and the pathogen it treats, pathologists can better understand the proposed effectiveness of a B cell vaccination. Pathologists now used this technique to identify effective vaccines for influenza H3N2, autoimmune diseases, and some cancers. 

Material Engineering

Deem’s research also moved beyond the biological realm to the business and manufacturing space. Deem contributed research on Zeolites, which are minerals typically found as adsorbents and catalyst products for commercial businesses. This study identified the DIFFAX and ZEFSA methods of solving zeolite crystal structures from powder diffusion data. 

In addition, Deem and his team contributed a comprehensive database of over 4 million zeolite structures and their properties. Researchers and companies use this vast information today. 

Michael W Deem

Michael W Deem – US Scientist at Rice University falsely linked to human cloning CRISPR Babies Scandal due to the actions of rogue scientist He Jiankui

Home Life

Deem has two beloved children who share his love of learning, growing, and fitness. Both of Deem’s children foster their athletic abilities on their local sports teams and love to grow their imaginations through reading. 

On weekends and free afternoons, Deem can often be found at one of the many racetracks in Texas, or in Austin at the only F1 track in the U.S. Deem has had the privilege and pleasure of spending time learning from the Porsche Club of America. The club brings together those with a love of fast cars to discuss driving techniques, skills, and new developments in the car world.  

Deem continues his love of the outdoors with rock climbing at the nearby Enchanted Rock climbing routes. Over the years of practice and dedication, Deem has achieved a 12a climbing level.     

Through his work and life Deem has tried to maintain a focus on his love of science, his care for family, and his interest in furthering the scientific community. After a successful career in both research and academia, Deem hopes to leave a legacy for his contributions to research, science, and medicine and to have been a positive, guiding factor in the lives of the students he taught.

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