Dr. Carol L. Keefer Honored with 2022 International Embryo Technology Society Pioneer Award

Animal & Avian Sciences professor recognized for embryo and somatic cell nuclear transfer, transgenesis, and stem cell research.

November 9, 2021 International Embryo Technology Society

The 2022 Pioneer Award of the International Embryo Technology Society (IETS) has been awarded to Dr. Carol L. Keefer, Department of Animal and Avian Science, University of Maryland. Since the 1980s, Dr. Keefer has been a true pioneer in the areas of sperm injection, embryo and somatic cell nuclear transfer, transgenesis, and stem cell research.

The IETS Pioneer Award is given to provide recognition for those people who were the earliest contributors to the development of embryo transfer technology and the embryo transfer industry. The contribution of the individual should be directly in the field of embryo transfer. Other reproductive physiology organizations will give recognition to endocrinologists, sperm physiologists, and other who contributed indirectly to embryo transfer.

Dr. Carol Keefer’s career has spanned clinical, industry, and academic settings, giving her a uniquely broad perspective. Her interest in reproductive biology began at the University of South Carolina and continued as she studied developmental biology at the University of Delaware, where she earned her PhD. Her post-doctoral work at Johns Hopkins and the University of Pennsylvania was instrumental in the successful cloning of rats. She was then an Assistant Professor at the University of Georgia and helped establish Reproductive Biology Associates, one of the first human in vitro fertilization clinics in the United States. During this time, her research was funded by the NIH, and she discovered and published that viable embryos and pregnancies could be obtained following direct microinjection of dead sperm into rabbit oocytes, which provided the option to rescue sperm and genetics from males from whom viable sperm could not be collected.

Keefer then applied her experience from academia when she transitioned to industry, working for American Breeder’s Service and making several discoveries in embryo cloning technology that received widespread adoption. Six years later, she moved to Nexia Biotechnologies in Quebec, Canada, where she produced transgenic goats via nuclear transfer with transfected donor cells, which secreted recombinant spider silk protein and recombinant human butylcholinesterase in their milk. Her expertise was recognized, and she served as industry liaison for grants of nearly $1 million.

Returning to academia, she began studying pluripotent cells, including embryonic stem cells in ruminants and mice, feline spermatogonial stem cells, and human teratocarcinoma cells at the University of Maryland, where she is currently a professor and mentor and continues to study stem cells and reproductive technology. Her research program there has received funding from the USDA, NSF, private foundations, and competitive internal grants, and her laboratory was the first to describe induction of trophectoderm lineage differentiation by cytokines in mouse embryonic stem cells. She collaborates with researchers from the University of Maryland as well as investigators at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute.

In addition, Dr. Keefer is involved with many scientific societies and committees. From 2006 to 2007 she served as one of only three external reviewers for the FDA’s Risk Assessment of Animal Cloning. She has been active in the IETS and served as the first female IETS president in 2003. Carol Keefer has significantly contributed to the advancement of reproductive technology, and the IETS is proud to honor her with the 2022 Pioneer Award.