La Jolla Institute board member Leroy Hood awarded prestigious National Medal of Science

Renowned scientist Leroy Hood, M.D., Ph.D., a member of the board of directors of the La Jolla Institute for Allergy & Immunology, has been awarded the National Medal of Science, the nation’s highest honor bestowed upon scientists.

Hood will receive the award from President Obama in a White House ceremony in early 2013.

An inventor and visionary, Hood is president and co-founder of the Institute for Systems Biology in Seattle, and has served on the La Jolla Institute Board since 2009. His key role in developing several pioneering technologies, most notably the automated DNA sequencer, redefined “possible” in genomics research and made him a revered scientific figure worldwide. High-speed DNA sequencers were central to the Human Genome Project, one of the most important scientific achievements of the past half century, which identified the 25,000 genes in human DNA.

“I am deeply honored to receive a National Medal of Science, and am profoundly grateful to the many fantastic colleagues and partners with whom I have worked throughout the years,” Hood said. “Transforming human health is my life’s work, and I am proud of all we have accomplished.”

Mitchell Kronenberg, Ph.D., La Jolla Institute president & chief scientific officer, said Hood’s receipt of the national award is extremely well-deserved, noting his extraordinary record of scientific achievement.

“Lee is a scientist whose work truly has changed the world,” Kronenberg said. “Not only did his DNA sequencer enable the Human Genome Project to proceed, but he is also credited with launching the field of proteomics, the large-scale study of proteins, the body’s amazing cellular workhorses, and with creating several technologies that form the core of modern molecular biology. Lee’s expansive ideas have and continue to revolutionize the future of medicine, and we are honored that he is a member of our board of directors.”

Hood is one of 12 eminent U.S. researchers named as recipients of the National Medal of Science by President Obama in an announcement Dec. 21.

“I am proud to honor these inspiring American innovators,” President Obama said. “They represent the ingenuity and imagination that has long made this nation great—and they remind us of the enormous impact a few good ideas can have when these creative qualities are unleashed in an entrepreneurial environment.”

The Medal of Science is the latest in a series of major awards received by Hood over the years, whose roster of accomplishments places him in an elite group of scientists. He is one of only 10 scientists, out of more than 6,000 nationwide, elected to all three branches of the National Academies of Sciences and Engineering. He is also the recipient of the renowned Lasker award, often called the “American Nobel Prize,” and he received the prestigious Kyoto prize in 2002.

In 2009, Rolling Stone magazine named him, “One of the 100 people who are changing America.” Hood also has been featured in Forbes, Newsweek, and the New York Times and counts Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates among his friends. A former professor at Caltech and the University of Washington, Hood established the Institute for Systems Biology in Seattle in 2000, a first-of-its-kind endeavor designed to tear down scientific silos and promote cross-disciplinary research for the betterment of human kind.

He’s written more than 750 scientific papers, holds 32 patents, and played a role in founding more than 14 biotechnology companies, including Amgen and Applied Biosystems. Applied Biosystems is now part of San Diego-based Life Technologies.