He received his BS from Yale in 1960 and his PhD in 1968 from Caltech, where he studied with Robert L. Sinsheimer. From 1968 to 2005, he was on the faculty at UNC-Chapel Hill, where he collaborated with Marshall Edgell on early applications of restriction enzymes.
While on sabbatical in Fred Sanger’s lab during 1975–1976, he participated in determining the first complete sequence of a DNA molecule (phi X174). In 1978 he developed sitedirected mutagenesis with Michael Smith. In cloning and sequencing the beta-globin gene cluster in mice with Edgell, they discovered L1, the major family of retrotransposons in the mammalian genome.
"As a graduate student with Bob Sinsheimer, I worked on the tiny bacterial virus phi X174. This taught me the importance of simple model systems in biology, and my whole subsequent career has been built upon thinking small."
In 1990 he began work with Mycoplasma genitalium, a model for the minimal cellular genome. This led to his collaboration with Hamilton Smith and Craig Venter, and to his current work on synthetic genomics. In May of 2010, the Synthetic Biology Group at JCVI reported construction of the first synthetic cell. Dr. Hutchison is Kenan Professor Emeritus at UNC-Chapel Hill, a member of the National Academy of Sciences, and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.