Web Date: November 27, 2013
Peter Schultz To Receive Solvay Prize
Figuring out ways to add new building blocks to the genetic codes of living organisms, among other feats, has garnered Peter G. Schultz the Chemistry for the Future Solvay Prize, awarded every other year by Solvay, a chemical company based in Belgium.
The prize honors a major scientific discovery that could shape tomorrow’s chemistry and help human progress. Schultz, a professor of chemistry at Scripps Research Institute and director of the California Institute for Biomedical Research, will receive the €300,000 (approximately $407,000) award during a ceremony in Brussels on Dec. 4.
“The best thing about awards of this sort, which come as a total surprise, is the vote of confidence that others in the chemical community feel our work has had a significant impact on the field,” Schultz says. He adds that he owes much of his success to his past students and postdocs “who took crazy ideas and made them work, and who themselves have gone on to do very exciting and significant science.”
“Peter Schultz is an extraordinary scientist whose inspirational research demonstrates the powerful role of chemistry at the interfaces of biology, medicine, and materials science,” says Peter B. Dervan, a professor of chemistry at California Institute of Technology, who was Schultz’s Ph.D. adviser in the early 1980s and has followed his work closely since then.
“What impresses me most is that Pete does not let ‘incredibly difficult’ slow him down,” David Wemmer says of Schultz’s tenacity to solve complex problems. Wemmer, who is a professor and executive associate dean of chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley, has collaborated with Schultz on numerous projects over the years.
Schultz’s research focuses on the synthesis of molecules and molecular assemblies with novel physical, chemical, or biological properties and functions. Along with his work on additions to genetic codes—which produce unnatural amino acids—Schultz has also researched the generation of catalytic antibodies and the characterization of their mechanisms and immunological evolution, as well as the use of combinatorial methods to generate small molecules, proteins, nucleic acids, and solid-state materials with novel properties.
“Peter’s work taught chemists that they have the power to ‘domesticate’ complex biological systems, from molecules to organisms, in order to serve human needs,” says Carolyn R. Bertozzi, a professor of chemistry and of molecular and cell biology at UC Berkeley. “There is not a chemical biologist today who has not been somehow influenced or inspired by his contributions.”
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