SAN DIEGO – (January 10th, 2013) Renowned scientist Leroy Hood, M.D., Ph.D., a member of the Board of Directors of the La Jolla Institute for Allergy & Immunology, has been awarded the National Medal of Science, the nation’s highest honor bestowed upon scientists.
Dr. Hood will receive the award from President Obama in a White House ceremony in early 2013.
An inventor and visionary, Dr. Hood is president and co-founder of the Institute for Systems Biology in Seattle, and has served on the La Jolla Institute Board since 2009. His key role in developing several pioneering technologies, most notably the automated DNA sequencer, redefined “possible” in genomics research and made him a revered scientific figure worldwide. High speed DNA sequencers were central to the Human Genome Project, one of the most important scientific achievements of the past half century, which identified the 25,000 genes in human DNA.
“I am deeply honored to receive a National Medal of Science, and am profoundly grateful to the many fantastic colleagues and partners with whom I have worked throughout the years,” said Dr. Hood. “Transforming human health is my life’s work, and I am proud of all we have accomplished.”
Mitchell Kronenberg, Ph.D., La Jolla Institute president & chief scientific officer, said Dr. Hood’s receipt of the national award is extremely well-deserved, noting his extraordinary record of scientific achievement. “Lee is a scientist whose work truly has changed the world,” said Dr. Kronenberg. “Not only did his DNA sequencer enable the Human Genome Project to proceed, but he is also credited with launching the field of proteomics, the large-scale study of proteins, the body’s amazing cellular workhorses, and with creating several technologies that form the core of modern molecular biology. Lee’s expansive ideas have and continue to revolutionize the future of medicine, and we are honored that he is a member of our Board of Directors.”
In a recent interview, Dr. Hood said his longtime friendship and respect for Dr. Kronenberg as well as his belief in the La Jolla Institute and its focus on immune system research, led him to join the Institute’s Board of Directors.
“I think it is both a respect for Mitch as a person and a respect for Mitch as a scientist that has created this enduring bond,” he said, noting that he has known Dr. Kronenberg for 30 years since mentoring him as a graduate student at Caltech. He also said he believes the La Jolla Institute has grown to be both an inspiring place to do research and that its focus on immunology is an extremely important distinction. “The immune system is one of the deepest and most fundamental defense mechanisms that higher organisms have, and it interfaces directly or indirectly with virtually every type of disease. It has major implications for maintaining health and improving medicine and I think there’s real value in having an institute focused exclusively on its study.”
Dr. Hood is one of twelve eminent U.S. researchers named as recipients of the National Medal of Science by President Obama in an announcement December 21st.
“I am proud to honor these inspiring American innovators,” President Obama said. “They represent the ingenuity and imagination that has long made this Nation great—and they remind us of the enormous impact a few good ideas can have when these creative qualities are unleashed in an entrepreneurial environment.”
The Medal of Science is the latest in a series of major awards received by Dr. Hood over the years, whose roster of accomplishments places him in an elite group of scientists. He is one of only ten scientists, out of more than 6000 nationwide, elected to all three branches of the National Academies of Sciences and Engineering. He is also the recipient of the renowned Lasker award, often called the “American Nobel Prize,” and he received the prestigious Kyoto prize in 2002.
In 2009, Rolling Stone magazine named him, “One of the 100 people who are changing America.” Dr. Hood also has been featured in Forbes, Newsweek, and the New York Times and counts Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates among his friends. A former professor at Caltech and the University of Washington, Dr. Hood established the Institute for Systems Biology in Seattle in 2000, a first-of-its-kind endeavor designed to tear down scientific silos and promote cross-disciplinary research for the betterment of human kind.
He’s written more than 750 scientific papers, holds 32 patents, and played a role in founding more than 14 biotechnology companies, including Amgen and Applied Biosystems. Applied Biosystems is now part of San Diego-based Life Technologies.
About La Jolla Institute
Founded in 1988, the La Jolla Institute for Allergy & Immunology is a biomedical research nonprofit focused on improving human health through increased understanding of the immune system. Its scientists carry out research seeking new knowledge leading to the prevention of disease through vaccines and the treatment and cure of infectious diseases, cancer, inflammatory and autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 (juvenile) diabetes, Crohn’s disease and asthma. La Jolla Institute’s research staff includes more than 150 Ph.D.s and M.D.s. To learn more about the Institute’s work, visit www.liai.org.