UC Berkeley Chemical Biologist Wins 'Oscar For Inventors'
An internationally known chemical biologist, Dr. Carolyn Bertozzi, researcher, entrepreneur, teacher, and mentor, from the University of California at Berkeley, has won the most prestigious Lemelson-MIT Prize for $500,000, dubbed the 'Oscar for Inventors.' This award recognizes individuals who translate their inventions and innovations into technologies that improve our world.
Bertozzi specializes in the study of glycans, or complex carbohydrates. Largely through this study, she has made discoveries and inventions that are applied worldwide in biotechnology and in the biopharmaceutical industry. Her chemical insights have progressed efforts to diagnose and treat various inflammatory and infectious diseases, as well as certain cancers. She has also made contributions to cell engineering and nanotechnologies.
Among Bertozzi's inventions is a technology for labeling biomolecules in living cells, by identifying a bioorthogonal chemical reaction that enables scientists to specifically target cells for gene delivery and anti-tumor diagnostics. Bertozzi herself uses the technology to image glycans on tumor cells in the hopes of creating a way to facilitate early cancer detection.
Additionally, Dr. Bertozzi invented a genetically-encoded aldehyde tag technology, a method that facilitates the engineering of precision proteins to target disease. Other Bertozzi inventions include a cell nanoinjector, an instrument that introduces molecules into living cells with a 'nanoneedle.' She also holds patents for artificial bone materials, targets for tuberculosis therapy, and cell microarray platforms.
Acknowledged by her colleagues and students as a superb mentor, the faculty director of the Lemelson-MIT Program, Michael J. Cima, said: "Carolyn Bertozzi takes scientific development to a new level; beyond her extraordinary gift as a researcher and innovator, she collaborates with her students to push into new frontiers. As a mentor, she engages those around her to develop new, creative ideas, ensuring a future pipeline of scientists, inventors and policy makers."
According to Professor Miguel Salmeron, director of the Materials Science Division at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Bertozzi “transformed the field of chemical biology, creating new industries along the way, and bringing new innovations to fields as disparate as nanoscience, tuberculosis therapy, and bone tissue engineering.”
Bertozzi's entrepreneurial endeavor, biotech start-up Redwood Bioscience, is focused on developing novel protein drugs. Her company, co-founded by her former student Dr. David Rabuka, recently received a National Institutes of Health Challenge Grant which brought $1 million to the company over two years, raising funds from the private sector as well.
Dr. Bertozzi will accept the prize and present her accomplishments to the public at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology during the Lemelson-MIT Program’s fourth-annual EurekaFest, a multi-day celebration of the inventive spirit, June 16 – 19.
Nominees for the 2011 $500,000 Lemelson-MIT Prize are now being accepted.
sources: materials made available by the Lemelson-MIT Program