NAS Award for Chemistry in Service to Society

NAS Award for Chemistry in Service to Society

About the 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.

Most Recent Recipient

Leroy E. Hood, received the 2017 NAS Award for Chemistry in Service to Society. Hood is a biotech visionary who has revolutionized biology and medicine in a career that spans five decades. Among his many accomplishments, Hood invented, commercialized, and developed multiple chemical tools that address biological complexity, including the automated DNA sequencer which spearheaded the Human Genome Project.

Hood’s earlier research work at Caltech led to the development of four DNA and protein sequencers and synthesizers, all of which became core instruments for contemporary molecular biology. Later, Hood’s lab developed the ink-jet oligonucleotide synthesizer, a core technology for DNA chip synthesis and large-scale DNA synthesis, and the first instrument capable of global single-molecule analysis of DNA and RNA molecules.

Beyond these innovations, Hood shepherded a cross-disciplinary approach to chemistry and biology, which led to the establishment of the Science and Technology Center for Molecular Biotechnology through the National Science Foundation, as well as the creation of the first cross-disciplinary department of biology, Department of Molecular Biotechnology (MBT) at the University of Washington, in Seattle, efforts which have influenced everything from academic research to K-12 STEM education.

Hood was an early proponent and advocate for the Human Genome Project, and directed the Human Genome Center’s sequencing of portions of human chromosomes 14 and 15. He has also founded or co-founded 15 different biotechnology companies to help commercialize genomic and proteomic technologies. Hood is a member of all three National Academies: Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

In 2000, Hood co-founded the Institute for Systems Biology (ISB), which was the first institute to practice systems biology. From the beginning, ISB started to focus systems approaches on studying disease. This led to the emergence of systems medicine. 

Hood’s pioneering work is now focused on new approaches to P4 medicine (predictive, preventive, personalized, and participatory), which is a continuation of his lifelong efforts to transform health care. In 2013, Hood and ISB embarked on creating a P4 pilot project in scientific wellness, comprising thousands of individuals. In 2016, ISB affiliated with Providence St. Joseph Health, to bring P4 medicine to the U.S. health care system. Hood is also beginning to focus on a systems education approach to bringing P4 medicine to health care professionals, including physicians. Read more about Hood's work»


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).


Leroy E. Hood (2017)
For his invention, commercialization and development of multiple chemical tools that address biological complexity, including the automated DNA sequencer that spearheaded the human genome project.
Read more about Hood's work»

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.
Read more about Roth's work»

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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