2003 Lemelson-MIT Prize Winner
While a student at the California Institute of Technology, Leroy Hood
received words of wisdom from his mentor William Dreyer: "If
you want to practice biology, do it on the leading edge and if you
want to be on the leading edge, invent new tools for deciphering biological
information." With this advice, Hood invented some of modern
molecular biology's core instruments, profoundly impacting research
and medicine. His DNA Sequencer made possible the Human Genome Project
(to identify the nearly 30,000 genes in human DNA).
|Photo by Dale DeGabriele
Hood and colleague Stephen Kent created the protein synthesizer,
an instrument that assembles long peptides from amino acid subunits.
Hood (and others) also invented the DNA synthesizer for synthesizing
DNA fragments—a key development for gene mapping and the polymerase
Working with a team at Caltech, Hood developed a prototype automated
DNA sequencer in 1985—a machine that rapidly determines the
order of the four letters across the strings of DNA in cells. The
process involves labeling each of the four DNA letters with different
fluorescent dyes, using a laser to make the DNA chemicals glow in
red, green, blue or orange, and then reading those signals by a
computer. Over the next 17 years, this machine made DNA sequencing
3,000 times faster, facilitating the Human Genome Project, for which
Hood was an early advocate and key player.
In 1992, Hood created the Department of Molecular Biotechnology
at the University of Washington, succeeded by the Institute for
Systems Biology in Seattle, WA—co-founded in 2000. Integrating
biology, medicine, computation and technology, the Institute focuses
on how systems operate by studying all of their elements together.
Inspired by his teachers while a young boy growing up in Montana,
Hood has worked to improve science education in grades K-12, emphasizing
analytical and inquiry based thinking.
Hood received his B.S. in Biology from Caltech (1960), his M.D.
from Johns Hopkins University (1964), and his Ph.D. in biochemistry
from Caltech (1968). Hood was the recipient of the Kyoto Prize for
Advanced Technology (2002), the Lasker Award for Studies of Immune
Diversity (1987) and others. He has founded or co-founded more than
10 companies, including Applied Biosystems and Amgen, that commercialize
Hood is currently working with NanoString
Technologies to create a high-speed, ultra-sensitive bar-coding
system for identifying individual molecules. In September 2007, Hood was inducted into the National Academy of Engineering. He is now one of only seven people who have been elected to all three National Academies.
Institute for Systems Biology