News from the National Academy of Sciences

September 10, 2015


Chad Mirkin Awarded First NAS Prize in Convergence Research

WASHINGTON — Chad A. Mirkin is the inaugural recipient of the Raymond and Beverly Sackler Prize in Convergence Research, the National Academy of Sciences announced today.  A professor at Northwestern University and the director of its International Institute for Nanotechnology, Mirkin is being awarded the $400,000 prize “for impressively integrating chemistry, materials science, molecular biology, and biomedicine in the development of spherical nucleic acids that are widely used in the rapid and automated diagnosis of infectious diseases and many other human diseases -- including cancers and cardiac disease -- and in the detection of drug-resistant bacteria.”  The prize will be presented in a ceremony on Tuesday, Oct. 13 at the National Academy of Sciences building in Washington, D.C.

The annual prize was established through a generous gift from Raymond and Beverly Sackler and their foundation to recognize significant advances in convergence research -- the integration of two or more of the following disciplines: mathematics, physics, chemistry, biomedicine, biology, astronomy, earth sciences, engineering, and computational science -- and achievements possible only through such integration.  This year's prize is being awarded for convergence research that benefits human health. Mirkin will receive two-thirds of the prize money; the remaining third will support his research at Northwestern.

“By successfully combining the power of many scientific disciplines, Chad Mirkin created an entirely new kind of nucleic acid that is fueling critical advances in the diagnosis and treatment of devastating illnesses,” said National Academy of Sciences President Ralph J. Cicerone.  “We are pleased to recognize his significant achievements in convergence research with this prize.”

Mirkin's innovations have led to new cancer therapeutics and diagnostic tools such as VerigeneTM, a system widely used in hospitals to quickly detect infectious pathogens and drug resistance markers without having to culture tissue.  His work is the foundation for hundreds of patents and approximately 1,800 products already on the market, and his research has also advanced nanotechnology, materials science, and other fields.

Mirkin is the George B. Rathmann Professor of Chemistry and professor of medicine, chemical and biological engineering, biomedical engineering, and materials science at Northwestern University.  A member of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the National Academy of Medicine, he is the recipient of more than 100 national and international awards.  Mirkin also serves on the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.

Dr. Raymond Sackler is a founder and board member of Purdue Pharma L.P., Stamford, Conn., and the Mundipharma Companies of Europe, Asia and Africa. Individually and through their foundations, Dr.  Sackler and his wife Beverly have sponsored biomedical and other scientific research at a number of major U.S. academic centers, including Boston University; California Institute of Technology (in collaboration with University of California, Los Angeles); Columbia University; Dana Farber Cancer Institute; Duke University; Institute for Advanced Study (Princeton, NJ); Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Mayo Clinic (Rochester), MD Anderson Cancer Center; Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center; New York University; Rockefeller University; Rutgers University/Cancer Institute of New Jersey, Stanford University, Tufts University; University of California, Berkeley (in collaboration with University of California, San Francisco); University of Connecticut; University of Nebraska; University of Toledo College of Medicine; University of Washington, Seattle; Weill Cornell Medical School; Yale University; and the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. International academic centers include Cambridge University (UK), Institut des Hautes Etudes Scientifiques (France), Tel Aviv University (Israel); University College London, University of Leiden (Netherlands); and University of Toronto (Canada).

The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit institution that was established under a congressional charter signed by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863. It recognizes achievement in science by election to membership, and -- with the National Academy of Engineering and the National Academy of Medicine -- provides science, technology, and health policy advice to the federal government and other organizations.

Molly Galvin, Senior Media Relations Officer
Office of News and Public Information
202-334-2138; e-mail
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