Dr. Norberto Guzmán, exitoso bioquímico chileno trabajando en el extranjero.

Dr. Norberto Guzmán, exitoso bioquímico chileno trabajando en el extranjero.

Norberto Guzman, Ph.D., M.Sc. – article taken from Electrophoresis, 2013, 34, 2284-2286

Dr. Norberto Guzman was born in the tiny north Chilean town of Maria Elena, on June 6, 1947. Maria Elena was then an isolated mining town located in the center of the Atacama Desert, considered to be the driest desert in the world. Life was rugged there; temperatures in the Altiplano fluctuate daily from below freezing to 30°C (86°F), where water and electricity were scarce. Norberto studied nightly by candlelight in a house warmed only by fire. He formed an emotional bond and identified with the harsh, starkly barren, yet beautiful land. He still cherishes his memories of spectacular sunrises and sunsets in the desert, and the trillions of stars in the world’s clearest sky. Norberto still fondly reminisces of the starry desert sky, and credits the breathtaking beauty for his connection to all that is nature.

The Atacama Desert demanded that at a young age Norberto adapt for survival in one of the planet’s most demanding climates. He developed keen survival skills to be alert for water and the few animals that he encountered as he wandered by himself in the desert. Norberto’s curiosities for nature led him to question and to explore the life of the desert. In order to entertain himself, Norberto drew cartoons, his favorite childhood pastime, whose characters where based on the animals he studied in the desert. At the age of five, his parents enrolled him in primary school, and by the time he was beginning junior high-school he already knew he wanted to be a biochemist,  the profession he believed would allow him to explore the heart of nature.

Norberto studied high school in Antofagasta in a very strict Jesuit school with stern discipline, which provided him a strong foundation to be a real-life problem solver, an effective communicator and a critical thinker with a creative and innovative mind. Routine excursions to the mountains in the Atacama Desert allowed him to learn of meditation practices for a calm and grounded state of mind, to cope with stress, regardless of the weather or circumstances whirling around him.

After finishing high school, Norberto enrolled in the University of Concepcion, in southern Chile, to study biochemistry. Upon graduation, he worked in a clinical labora- tory at the largest hospital in Valparaiso, which focused his passion towards analytical biochemistry. It was there that Norberto consciously decided to exchange the trillions of desert stars for the trillions of cells in the human body that he was beginning to explore. His passion for science, his creative mind, and his optimistic personality gave him a sense of destiny. Norberto felt called by destiny to contribute to the advancement of disease diag- nosis, regardless of obstacles or doubters he would certainly encounter. With a Bachelor of Science degree in clinical biochemistry, Norberto emigrated to the U.S. where he started his American education at the Department of Biochemistry/Cell and Molecular Biology at the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta. As a graduate student, Norberto worked part- time in the clinical laboratory of the University hospital, broadening his technical abilities to include immunopathology, hematology and clinical chemistry. His strong work ethic, his persistence, and drive to improve procedures, led him to important discoveries in the area of collagen research.

After obtaining his Master of Science degree in biochemistry at the Medical College of Georgia, Norberto moved to New Jersey where he continued his studies in   collagen research and biochemistry at a joint program offered by the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, and Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. It was at this time that Norberto became interested in capillary electrophoresis and related technologies. After obtaining his Ph.D. degree in biochemistry, Dr. Guzman worked at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City at the Department of Orthopedics collaborating in protein biochemistry with the Departments of Pediatrics and Genetics.


In 1987, Dr. Guzman joined Roche Diagnostic Systems in Nutley, New Jersey, work- ing primarily in immunochemistry, performing research and developing commercial im- munoassays. Later he transferred to Hoffman-La Roche. It was here in this environment of diagnostic and pharmaceutical applications where Norberto started applying capillary electrophoresis to the needs relevant to these industries. In 1992, Norberto joined John- son & Johnson, where he worked in several departments including formulation, analytical chemistry, bioanalysis, toxicology, and quality control.

Since the 1980’s, capillary electrophoresis has been Dr. Guzman focus for innovation, in particular in the area of immunoaffinity capillary electrophoresis (IACE). He imme- diately understood the high importance of this technology by enabling rapid sequential isolation, quantification and characterization of trace amounts of substances from biolog- ical fluids. IACE is compatible with all molecular weights from small to complex protein assemblies. Immunoaffinity capillary electrophoresis has been the subject of the majority of Dr. Guzman’s patents.

At the present time, Norberto is using his expertise in protein biochemistry, specifically in the analysis of collagen and collagen peptides for the food industry. Since 2011, he is heading the department of quality control and quality assurance at Nitta Casings Inc., in Bridgewater, New Jersey, a Japanese company with headquarters in Osaka, Japan. The Nitta family of companies commercializes collagen products for use in the food, nutraceuticals and medical-pharmaceutical industries. In this new setting, Dr. Guzman has found ample opportunity to improve analysis by employing capillary electrophoresis.

Dr. Guzman is the author or co-author of more than 130 scientific publications, includ- ing manuscripts, patents and book chapters. His publications have been cited almost 4500 times (Google Scholar Citations: h-index of 35, and an i10 index of 63). One publication alone is approaching 1400 citations [1]. Seven figures of his publications have appeared in the front cover of journals and books. Dr. Guzman is the editor of two widely refer- enced books on the subject of capillary electrophoresis and collagen prolyl hydroxylase. He is a popular invited speaker in Europe, the Americas, the Far East and Australia. Dr. Guzman holds numerous worldwide patents on capillary electrophoresis and microchip technology and his accomplishments have been recognized by being the recipient of several national and international awards for innovation in science and technology. Dr. Guzman is a member of various international scientific organizations. He currently serves on the editorial board of the European journal Electrophoresis, the American Journal of Liquid Chromatography and Related Techniques. He is the founding editor of the Journal of Capillary Electrophoresis and Microchip Technology. Dr. Guzman’s entertaining and instructive presentations have made him a sought-after lecturer worldwide, by academia, clinical institutes, pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and food industries.

Many, no doubt, will be surprised that three of the most significant capillary elec- trophoresis features were developed by Dr. Guzman. His first invention was a portable cartridge-cassette that allowed the capillary to be coiled, protected, aligned with the detec- tor, and temperature controlled by a circulating fluid [2]. The second of the inventions, in collaboration with Venezuelan researchers, was the adaptation of a fluorescence confocal- epiluminescence microscope to be used as a capillary electrophoresis detector [3]. This was a major advancement in detection technology that significantly improved sensitivity and specificity. The third invention was the merging of two powerful technologies, affinity- capturing as a first dimension, and capillary electrophoresis as a second dimension [4–6]. This immunoaffinity ligand-separation technology is known as immunoaffinity capillary electrophoresis (IACE). This technology is important in several respects: (i) it is capa- ble of on-line capturing an analyte present in a simple    or complex mixture for cleaning and concentration purposes; (ii) it allows for on-line analyte derivatization for further en- hancement of sensitivity, and (iii) it can quantify closely structurally-related molecules, not easily quantified by, for example, ELISA technique. More recently, Dr. Guzman developed a portable multi-dimensional IACE-instrument that can capture and separate multiple an- alytes using two or more analyte concentrators-microreactors. The IACE-instrument can be connected to a mass spectrometer for detailed structural characterization.

Dr. Guzman has strong connections with the scientific community in South America and is eager to foster educational opportunities in South American countries. He founded

the Annual Latin American Capillary Electrophoresis (LACE) conferences. This conference enables Latin-American scientists, and especially students, to meet worldwide authorities in capillary electrophoresis and listen to their lectures on the most recent developments in the field. LACE also provides workshops to enable Latin-American students to gain hands-on experience with the state-of-the art instrumentation. In order to engage as many participants as possible, the conference is held in different countries in South America, Central America, or Spain. Every year Dr. Guzman dedicates time and contributes with personal funds to the organization of this conference. He is rewarded by the appreciation and warmth of his Latin-American academic colleagues and students.

Due to his vast experience in pharmaceutical and clinical environments, Dr. Guzman’s perspective on bioanalysis is extremely broad in the analytical and separation science fields. He has spent many years solving practical problems in bioanalysis that represent a constant challenge to the pharmaceutical-biotechnology industry. As an example of a masterful piece of his work, I would cite the CE analytical method he developed for the isoforms of erythropoietin (EPO) when he was at the Johnson & Johnson Pharmaceutical Research & Development. This CE application quickly became an accepted method by the European Pharmacopoeia [7]. From his work in the field of diagnostics, he understands that advanced immunoaffinity-bioanalytical techniques and the determination he has to explore innovative new technologies will play a crucial role in the future practice of medicine.

It has been both a privilege and pleasure to have known Dr. Guzman, an excellent scientist and good friend, for more than two decades. I know that his imaginative mind will continue to burn with the fury of a volcano and, in turn, new ideas will be created to improve bioanalytical science. Happy birthday Norberto!

Andras Guttman, Ph.D.


[1] Prockop, D. J., Kivirikko, K. I., Tuderman, L., Guzman, N. A., New Engl. J. Med. 1979, 301, 13–23; 1979, 301, 77–85.

[2] Guzman, N. A., Capillary electrophoresis apparatus. U.S. Patent Number 5,045,172 A, Granted Date: September 3, 1991. [3] Hernandez, L., Marquina, R., Escalona, J., Guzman, N. A., J. Chromatogr. 1990, 502, 247–255.

[4] Guzman, N. A., Trebilcock, M. A., Advis, J. P., J. Liq. Chromatogr. 1991, 14, 997–1015.

[5] Guzman, N. A., Automated capillary electrophoresis apparatus. U.S. Patent Number 5,202,010 A, Granted Date: April 13, 1993.

[6] Guzman, N. A., Phillips, T. M., Electrophoresis 2011, 32, 1565–1578.

[7] Bristow, A., Sutcliffe, N., Zimmermann, G., Wieczorek, L., Matsuki, S., Grant, K., Nurzynski, J., Cable, J., Girard, M., Dayan- Kenigsberg,  J.,  Guzman,  N.,  Serafini,  C.,  Bayol,  A.,  Skare,  A.,  Sjo¨ din,  L.,  Windemann,  H.,  Diez-Masa,  C.,  Hayakawa,  T., Brianc¸on, F., Charton, E., Willd, B., in: Bristow, A., Charton, E. (Eds.), Collaborative Study for the Replacement of Isoelectric Focusing by Capillary Zone Electrophoresis in the Erythropoietin Monograph, Chapter 11, Pharmeurope (The European Pharmacopoeia Forum), Strasbourg, France 1999, pp. 290–305.

Pictures provided by Norberto Guzmán