Dr. White received his B.A. in Chemistry from Johns Hopkins University in 1967. From 1968-71, he was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Voinjama, Liberia and trained elementary school teachers in math, science and public health. He received his Ph.D. in Biochemistry in 1975 from the University of California at Berkeley – including studies in the Pharmacology Department at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. His postdoctoral research on breast cancer was carried out at the University of California Medical Center in San Francisco and on antibiotic resistance at the University of Wisconsin in Madison.
From 1978-1988, White was employed at the biotechnology firm Cetus Corporation where he held the positions of Vice President of Research and Associate Director of Research and Development. He worked on the discovery, research and development of human proteins as therapeutics, such as beta-interferon for the treatment of multiple sclerosis and interleukin-2 for renal cell carcinoma. He also directed the research and development of products using the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) for multiple applications in basic research, molecular evolution, forensics and diagnostics.
From 1989-2000 White worked for Roche Molecular Systems, a diagnostics division of Hoffmann-La Roche. As Senior Vice President of Research and Development, he was responsible for Roche’s R&D on PCR-based tests for the medical diagnosis of genetic diseases, cancer (HPV, CML), infectious diseases (TB, CMV, STD’s), for screening the blood supply for HIV, HCV and HBV, for bone marrow transplantation (HLA), and for developing new applications of PCR for basic research, forensics and the human genome project During that decade, Tom directed post-doctoral research fellows working on HIV evolution and transmission, and was a Visiting Scholar at UC Berkeley where he collaborated with Professor John W. Taylor on the molecular phylogenetics and population biology of human and plant fungal pathogens.
From 2001-2011, White was Senior VP of R&D and Chief Scientific Officer at Celera Corporation. Celera Diagnostic’s research involved the discovery of new genomic and expression biomarkers and the development and FDA registration of molecular diagnostic products for cystic fibrosis, Fragile-X, HIV drug resistance, and hepatitis C virus genotyping as well as laboratory developed (CLIA) tests for complex common diseases. Throughout his research career, White coedited four books and coauthored a hundred publications in peer-reviewed scientific and medical journals.
Dr. White retired in June 2011 and was the Regents’ Lecturer at the University of California at Berkeley in 2012-13 where he is a member of the advisory boards of the Human Rights Center, the College of Natural Resources, the SAGE Scholars program, and a Trustee of the University of California Press Foundation. He is a scientific advisor to the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics (FIND) in Geneva and serves as a member of the board of Compassion & Choices, a nonprofit organization that provides support, education and advocacy for people with a terminal illness.