Chester L. Sutula
Chester L. Sutula, a native of Erie, Pennsylvania, obtained his B.S. degree in chemistry from Holy Cross College in 1954 and his Ph.D. degree in physical chemistry from Iowa State University in 1959. After working for Marathon Oil Company for eight years in surface chemistry and oil production research, he joined Ames Company, a division of Miles Laboratories, Inc., in 1967 and became its director of research in 1970. In 1976, he joined Ortho Diagnostics Systems, a division of Johnson & Johnson, Inc., as vice president of R&D.
In 1981, Dr. Sutula established Agdia, Inc., Elkhart, Indiana, to develop and provide reliable and practical diagnostics for the detection of plant pathogens. During this period, diagnostic assays based on the ELISA method were already being developed for human and veterinary applications. Following the reports of the first use of ELISA to detect plant viruses by Voller and Clarke, Dr. Sutula introduced the first commercial kits for the detection of potato viruses and bacteria. These kits provided all of the components that were necessary to perform the test in a ready-to-use format, called PathoScreen®. His initial vision was to develop these kits for growers, and he devoted much time and resources to visiting farmers and conducting hands-on workshops. He established collaborations with many plant pathologists, built the Agdia team, and expanded Agdia’s product range to include many plant viral diagnostic kits.
From the very beginning, Agdia received an enthusiastic response from a rapidly growing number of customers, and soon the diagnostic kits were recognized worldwide for their quality and value. With two competing companies in Europe, Dr. Sutula pioneered the concept of “reagent sets”—matched, quality-controlled antibodies and antibody-enzyme conjugates that can be used to prepare and perform one’s own test. He integrated these ideas into plant diagnostics, expanded the scope of diagnostic assays, and guided Agdia to an 80-fold sales growth over the past 21 years. In response to many requests, he formed Agdia Testing Services in 1982, a unit of Agdia that is known worldwide for its reliable, high-quality results and rapid, responsive, confidential service. Agdia is also known for its affordable, quality products and currently offers more than 200 tests that use several technologies, such as ELISA, PCR, nucleic acid hybridization, immunochromatography, and IFA, to detect viruses, viroids, bacteria, fungi, mycoplasma, insects, plant hormones, and proteins in conventional and genetically modified crops. Dr. Sutula’s plan was to make research on detecting plant pathogens available to many persons in worldwide agriculture and to package this technology into easy-to-perform, affordable tests. Agdia’s products now ship to more than 120 countries.
Dr. Sutula has served on several APS committees over the years, including the Industry, Virology, and Diagnostics Committees, and has been a reviewer for Plant Disease. He has authored several articles and many posters and presentations dealing with the detection of plant pathogens.