Houston, TX – August 18, 2022 – The Welch Foundation, one of the nation’s largest sources of private funding for basic chemical research, has announced that Professor Carolyn R. Bertozzi is the 2022 recipient of the renowned Robert A. Welch Award in Chemistry. Dr. Bertozzi is a leading figure in the field of chemical biology who has made major discoveries about the nature of cell surface chemistry, especially the complex forest of sugar molecules that decorate these surfaces. Glycobiology, the branch of biochemistry that focuses on sugar molecules, would not have been possible without her innovative work. With this award, she is being recognized for her ground-breaking contributions to bioorganic chemistry and the development of bioorthogonal chemistry, all of which have instrumental applications in the study of human health and disease.
“By innovating the field of bioorthogonal chemistry, Dr. Bertozzi has revolutionized cell biology as we know it,” said Douglas Foshee, Chair and Director, The Welch Foundation Board of Directors. “The mission of The Welch Foundation is to improve the lives of others through the advancement of chemical research, and Dr. Bertozzi’s discoveries will undoubtedly help future scientists work towards that goal.”
Dr. Bertozzi is the Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Professor of Chemistry at Stanford University, an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and the Baker Family Director of Sarafan ChEM-H (Chemistry, Engineering & Medicine for Human Health). Her exciting work first began in 1999 when she invented bioorthogonal chemistry, a class of chemical reactions that can occur in living cells but that happen without interfering with the chemistry of the living cell. These reactions are compatible with living systems and enable molecular imaging and drug targeting. In 2015, Dr. Bertozzi shifted her focus to studying the glycobiology of various diseases such as cancer, arthritis, and tuberculosis. This work has already been translated to in vivo imaging, disease biomarker identification, biotherapeutic development, and a clinical trial.
“For decades, many scientists were puzzled about the purpose and chemical nature of the glycan cell surface until Dr. Bertozzi used bioorthogonal chemistry to uncover the full picture,” said Catherine J. Murphy, Chair, The Welch Foundation Scientific Advisory Board. “Further, Carolyn has invented many tools to help her understand glycobiology and how the glycan functions. For instance, she has created genetically encoded aldehyde tags which allow researchers to detect and label biomolecules in cells, and a cell nanoinjector that allows injection of contents into the interior of the cell with minimal damage. These cutting-edge technologies have huge implications for future cancer therapies.”
Dr. Bertozzi completed her undergraduate degree in chemistry at Harvard University and her Ph.D. at the University of California, Berkeley where she focused on the chemical synthesis of oligosaccharide analogs. During her postdoctoral work at UC San Francisco, she studied the activity of endothelial oligosaccharides in promoting cell adhesion at sites of inflammation. She joined the UC Berkeley faculty in 1996. A Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator since 2000, she came to Stanford University in June 2015 and was among the first faculty to join the interdisciplinary institute ChEM-H.
Dr. Bertozzi has received numerous awards including the Pew Scholars Award in the Biomedical Sciences (1996), Horace S. Isbell Award in Carbohydrate Chemistry (1997), Presidential Early Career Award in Science and Engineering (2000), ACS Award in Pure Chemistry (2001), Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (2002), Iota Sigma Pi Agnes Fay Morgan Research Award (2004), Ernst Schering Prize (2007), Li Ka Shing Women in Science Award (2008), Roy L. Whistler International Award in Carbohydrate Chemistry (2008), Willard Gibbs Medal (2008), Lemelson-MIT Prize (2010), Tetrahedron Young Investigator Award (2011), Ernest Orlando Lawrence Award of the U.S. Department of Energy (2015), National Academy of Sciences Award in the Chemical Sciences (2016), American Chemical Society Arthur C. Cope Award (2017) and the National Inventor’s Hall of Fame Inductee (2017).
She is a member of the Royal Society, National Academy of Inventors, National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Medicine, German Academy of Sciences Leopoldina and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Currently, she serves on the Eli Lilly Board of Directors, Symic Bio Scientific Advisory Board, Perlara Scientific, Grace Science Foundation and Broad Institute Board of Scientific Counselors. She has also served on the advisory boards for Glaxo SmithKline Research and Tularik Scientific. Bertozzi has co-founded many companies such as Thios Pharmaceuticals, Redwood Bioscience, Enable Biosciences, Palleon Pharma, Grace Science LLC, and GlycoProX. She is the Editor-in-Chief of ACS Central Science. She serves on the editorial board for Accounts of Chemical Research, Carbohydrate Research, Cell Chem. Biology, Integrative Biology, Curr. Opin. Chem. Biology, ACS Chemical Biology and ACS Nano, J. Org.
Since 1954, the Houston-based Welch Foundation has contributed more than $1.1 billion to the advancement of chemistry through research grants, departmental research grants, endowed chairs and support for other chemistry-related programs in Texas. The purpose of the Robert A. Welch Award is to foster and encourage basic chemical research and to recognize, in a substantial manner, the value of chemical research contributions for the benefit of humankind as set forth in the will of Robert Alonzo Welch. Upon accepting the award, Dr. Bertozzi will receive $500,000 and a gold medallion. For more information on the Foundation and a list of previous Welch Award recipients, please visit www.welch1.org.