Posted: May 6, 2010

Foundation For the Future to award $100,000 Kistler Prize to Dr. Leroy Hood

(Nanowerk News) Foundation For the Future has selected genomics pioneer Leroy Hood, M.D., Ph.D., as the 2010 winner of the Kistler Prize. The Prize has been awarded annually since 2000 to honor original work that significantly increases knowledge and understanding of the relationship between the human genome and society. Dr. Hood, Co-founder and President of the Institute for Systems Biology, Seattle, is one of the world’s leading scientists in systems biology, biotechnology, immunology, and genomics.
Dr. Hood is being honored for creating the technological foundation for the sciences of genomics (study of genes) and proteomics (study of proteins) through the invention of five groundbreaking instruments and for explicating the potentialities of genome and proteome research into the future through his pioneering of the fields of systems biology and systems medicine. His instruments not only pioneered the deciphering of biological information, but also introduced the concept of high throughput data accumulation through automation and parallelization of the protein and DNA chemistries. Hood's discoveries have permanently changed the course of biology and revolutionized the understanding of genetics, life, and human health.
The first two instruments transformed the field of proteomics. The protein sequencer allowed scientists to read and analyze proteins that had not previously been accessible, resulting in the characterization of a series of new proteins whose genes could then be cloned and analyzed. These discoveries led to significant ramifications for biology, medicine, and pharmacology. The second instrument, the protein synthesizer, synthesized proteins and peptides in sufficient quantities to begin characterizing their functions. The DNA synthesizer, the first of three instruments for genomic analyses, was used to synthesize DNA fragments for DNA mapping and gene cloning. The most notable of Hood’s inventions, the automated DNA sequencer developed in 1986, made possible high-speed sequencing of human genomes and was the key technology enabling the Human Genome Project. Finally in the early 1990s Hood and his colleagues developed the ink-jet DNA synthesis technology for creating DNA arrays with tens of thousands of gene fragments, one of the first of the so-called DNA chips, which enabled measuring the levels of 10,000s of expressed genes. This instrument has also transformed genomics, biology, and medicine. The first four instruments were commercialized by Applied Biosystems, Inc., a company founded by Dr. Hood in 1981, and the ink-jet technology was commercialized by Agilent Technologies, thus making these instruments immediately available to the world-community of scientists.
In 1992, with help from Bill Gates, Hood founded and was named Chairman of the cross-disciplinary Department of Molecular Biotechnology at the University of Washington. This department pioneered frontier developments in genomics, proteomics, cell separations, and computational biology.
In 2000, Hood and two colleagues founded the Institute for Systems Biology (ISB), a nonprofit research institute integrating biology, medicine, computation, and technology to take a systems (holistic) approach to studying the complexity of biology and medicine by analyzing all elements in a biological system rather than studying them one gene or protein at a time (an atomistic approach). The Institute celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, and was recently recognized in the SCImago Report, because ISB research papers had the highest scientific impact in the United States and the third highest in the world. The report analyzed the impact of scientific papers published by 2200 institutions in 84 countries.
Hood’s efforts in a systems approach to disease have led him to pioneer a new approach to medicine that he describes as P4 medicine – predictive, personalized, preventive, and participatory. His view is that P4 medicine will transform the practice of medicine over the next five to ten years, moving it from a largely reactive discipline to a proactive one, moving medicine towards becoming an informational science. For example, Hood envisions that in less than ten years each patient will be surrounded by a virtual cloud of billions of data points, and that new computational approaches will allow these data to be translated into simple hypotheses about the health and/or disease of each individual. Clinicians will be able to search the health space and disease space for each individual in a dimensionality inconceivable even a few years ago.
“Dr. Hood’s long-term passion for working at the frontiers of biology and medicine has greatly aided humankind’s understanding of how genetics impacts human society, and significantly improved health and life for individuals dealing with a variety of serious illnesses,” said Sesh Velamoor, Foundation For the Future Director of Programs. “Going forward, his inventions and achievements make possible a revolution to predictive and preventive medicine to replace the reactive approach common today.”
The Kistler Prize includes a cash award of US$100,000 and a 180-gram gold medallion. It is named for Walter P. Kistler, President and benefactor of Foundation For the Future, who will formally present the 2010 award to Dr. Hood in an invitation-only gala banquet and ceremony in Seattle in September.
Besides the Kistler Prize, Foundation For the Future also awards the Walter P. Kistler Book Award, Walter P. Kistler Science Documentary Film Award, and Walter P. Kistler Science Teacher Award. The Foundation convenes seminars, workshops, and symposia that focus on the long-term future of humanity, and last fall it launched the Walter P. Kistler Lecture Series to create direct access by the general public to free scholar lectures on critical issues facing humanity. The Foundation also funds research programs, publishes scholarly works, and undertakes public awareness and education programs concerning the long-term future of humanity.
Source: Foundation For the Future