Header NAS Award for Chemistry in Service to Society

Established by E. I. du Pont de Nemours & Company

The NAS Award for Chemistry in Service to Society is awarded biennially for contributions to chemistry, either in fundamental science or its application, that clearly satisfy a societal need. The award is given in alternate years to chemists working in industry and to those in academia, government, and nonprofit organizations. The award is presented with a $20,000 prize. 

Since 1991 the award has recognized the profound benefits of chemistry to society and how advances in chemistry have led to greater economic wealth and a better quality of life. Two recipients of the NAS Award for Chemistry in Service to Society have gone on to win a National Medal of Science (Harold S. Johnston 1997; Marvin H. Caruthers 2006) and one recipient has proceeded to win a Nobel Prize (Medicine; Paul C. Lauterbur 2003).

Bruce D. Roth, senior vice president, small molecule drug discovery at Genentech, is the recipient of the 2015 NAS Award for Chemistry in Service to Society. In 1985 while at Parke-Davis Pharmaceutical Research, Roth identified a molecule that inhibited HMG CoA reductase, a key enzyme in the metabolic pathway the body uses to produce cholesterol. Roth and his colleagues worked to synthesize the enzyme-inhibiting molecule and transform it into a viable drug, atorvastatin, sold under the brand name Lipitor. People with high levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol have an increased risk of heart disease, the biggest killer  of men and women in the United States.  Studies showed that Lipitor could not only lower cholesterol but also delay or even prevent heart attacks. Those results helped make Lipitor the world’s leading cholesterol-lowering drug, taken by millions of people.


Bruce D. Roth (2015)
For his discovery, synthesis and commercial development of atorvastatin (Lipitor), the most successful cholesterol lowering medicine in history, which has extended the lifespan of millions of people worldwide.

Edward C. Taylor (2013)
For his contributions to heterocyclic chemistry, in particular the discovery of the new-generation antifolate pemetrexed, approved for the treatment of mesothelioma and non-small cell lung cancer and under clinical investigation for treatment of a variety of other solid tumors.

Paul J. Reider (2011)
For his contributions to the discovery and development of numerous approved drugs, including those for treating asthma and for treating AIDS.

John D. Roberts (2009)
For seminal contributions in physical organic chemistry, in particular the introduction of NMR spectroscopy to the chemistry community.

Arthur A. Patchett (2007)
For innovative contributions in discoveries of Mevacor, the first statin that lowers cholesterol levels, and of Vasotec and Prinivil for treating hypertension and congestive heart failure.

Marvin H. Caruthers (2005)
For his invention and development of chemical reagents and methods currently used for the automated synthesis of DNA oligonucleotides (i.e., the "gene machine").

Paul S. Anderson (2003)
For his scientific leadership in two drugs approved for the treatment of AIDS and for his widely cited basic research related to the glutamate receptor.

Paul C. Lauterbur (2001)
For his research on nuclear magnetic resonance and its applications in chemistry and medicine, and his contributions to the development of magnetic resonance imaging in medicine.

C. Grant Willson (1999)
For his fundamental contribution to the chemistry of materials that produce micropatterns in semiconductors, and for its widespread application in the microelectronics industry for the benefit of society.

Ernest L. Eliel (1997)
For his seminal and far-reaching contributions in organic stereochemistry and for his wise and energetic leadership in professional societies that represent the interests of chemists and of society, both in the United States and abroad.

P. Roy Vagelos (1995)
For his fundamental contributions to the understanding of fatty acid biosynthesis, cholesterol metabolism, and phospholipid metabolism, and for his leadership at Merck that led to the discovery of a number of important therapeutic and preventive agents.

Harold S. Johnston (1993)
For his pioneering efforts to point out that man-made emissions could affect the chemistry of the stratosphere, in particular, the danger of the depletion by nitrogen oxide of the earth's critical and fragile ozone layer.

Vladimir Haensel (1991)
For his outstanding research in the catalytic reforming of hydrocarbons, that has greatly enhanced the economic value of our petroleum natural resources.


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