About the Award

The NAS Award for Scientific Discovery is presented every two years to recognize an accomplishment or discovery in basic research, achieved within the previous five years, that is expected to have a significant impact on one or more of the following fields: astronomy, biochemistry, biophysics, chemistry, materials science, or physics through the selection of recipients of the Award. The Award will rotate among these fields as determined by the NAS Council. To be eligible for an Award, a candidate must be a scientist at a university, college, or other research institution within the United States. This award is presented with a medal, a $50,000 prize, and $50,000 to support the recipient’s research. Nominations are being accepted now for the 2025 Award in astronomy, materials science, or physics.

Kevan M. Shokat, University of California, San Francisco, received the 2023 NAS Award for Scientific Discovery.

Shokat is a pioneer of modern chemical biology, using innovative approaches to develop powerful molecular tools to advance basic knowledge and combat devastating diseases.

Shokat, a professor at both the University of California, San Francisco, and the University of California, Berkeley, and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator, has established an innovative and productive interdisciplinary research program that has produced an array of powerful chemical methods for studying cell biology. Early in his career, Shokat developed orthogonal kinase-substrate pairs, powerfully demonstrating how useful chemogenetic tools could be in dissecting complex signaling pathways in vivo.

2024 NAS Award for Scientific Discovery, Shokat social

Shokat’s recent discovery of inhibitors targeted to the commonly mutated cancer oncogene, K-Ras, has led to the discovery of the first drugs against a target previously considered undruggable. This breakthrough has led to a revolutionary new approach to cancer treatment that is already having a major medical impact.

Watch Shokat’s acceptance speech.

Award History

Endowed in 2014 in honor of John P. Schaefer through a gift from the Research Corporation for Science Advancement (RCSA) and the Frederick Gardner Cottrell Foundation. The inaugural NAS Award for Scientific Discovery was presented in 2015 to Jonathan S. Weissman, investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and professor in the department of cellular and molecular pharmacology at the University of California, San Francisco, in the field of chemistry, biochemistry, or biophysics. In 2009, Weissman and colleagues at the University of California, San Francisco, developed a technique called ribosome profiling. With this technique, researchers can sequence the chunks of messenger RNA (mRNA) that ribosomes are decoding, giving a snapshot of the genes being translated within a cell. First applied to yeast, ribosome profiling has been since been extended to many other organisms, including humans. It has been used to identify new proteins and peptides, investigate the process of translation, measure gene expression in cells and determine rates of protein synthesis. In addition, Weissman and his team have employed ribosome profiling to make important insights into the critical role that protein synthesis plays in cell growth and differentiation.

Most Recent Recipient
Kevan M. Shokat, 2023 NAS Award for Scientific Discovery.
Kevan M. Shokat
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Awards will be presented in a variety of fields including biophysics, astronomy, microbiology, medical sciences, and more.

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Award Types

Previous Award Recipients

Pablo Jarillo-Herrero
Xiaowei Zhuang
Gabriela González, David H. Reitze, and Peter R. Saulson
Jonathan S. Weissman