Stephen J. Lippard


Arthur Amos Noyes Professor
Department of Chemistry, Room 18-498
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
77 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02139-4307


Stephen J. Lippard

Stephen J. Lippard, whose research spans the fields of biological and inorganic chemistry, is the Arthur Amos Noyes Professor of Chemistry at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Lippard studies biological interactions involving metal ions, focusing on reactions and physical and structural properties of metal complexes. Such complexes can be useful as cancer drugs and as models for the active sites of metalloproteins. Metal ions also promote key biological reactions in enzymes and metal complexes can be employed to sense biological signaling agents.

Lippard is an extramural faculty member of MIT’s David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research and is well known for his work on the mechanism of the anti-cancer drug cisplatin, which contains platinum and is primarily used to treat testicular cancer and ovarian cancer. His lab is currently working on designing more effective platinum anti-tumor agents.

The Lippard group also determined the structure of the component proteins of methane monooxygenase, an enzyme from aerobic bacteria that convert methane (natural gas) and oxygen to liquid methanol and water in the first step of their life process. They elucidated several key steps in the activation of oxygen and methane at a closely spaced pair of iron atoms in the enzyme. This chemistry is related to that used in bioremediation, processes by which microorganisms are employed to clean the environment. Examples include removal of trichloroethylene from drinking water and the cleanup of oil spills from the land. Subsequently, structures of the related hydroxylase enzymes from toluene/o-xylene monooxygenase and phenol hydroxylase, the latter in complex with its regulatory protein, were determined. Oxygenated intermediates in the catalytic cycles of the enzymes have been identified.

Lippard recently developed a fluorescent sensor that monitors nitric oxide, a molecule that plays critical roles in the human body, from destroying invading microorganisms to relaying neuronal signals. The molecule had long eluded scientists because it often exists in minute concentrations and for only short periods of time. The sensor allows scientists to view nitric oxide in living cells. A sensor for nitroxyl, HNO, has also been devised. In related work, Lippard has also developed fluorescent and MRI sensors to detect and understand the roles of mobile zinc in the brain. With the use of a rapid chelating agent for mobile zinc, its roles in long term potentiation in the hippocampus, the center of learning and memory in the brain, has been established in collaboration with the McNamara lab at Duke Medical School.

In 2006, Lippard received the 2004 National Medal of Science, the highest science honor in the United States. He was cited for “pioneering research in bioinorganic chemistry, including the interaction of metal compounds with DNA, preparation of synthetic models for metalloproteins, and structural and mechanistic studies of methane monooxygenase." He holds the 2009 Linus Pauling Medal.

Lippard has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences, the National Institute of Medicine, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He has received several awards from the American Chemical Society — the ACS Award in Inorganic Chemistry in 1987, the ACS Award for Distinguished Service in Inorganic Chemistry in 1994, the Bader Award in Bioinorganic or Bioorganic Chemistry in 2004, and the Breslow Award for Achievement in Biomimetic Chemistry in 2010, as well as several local section awards including the 1995 William H. Nichols Medal of the New York Section of the ACS, the Theodore W. Richards Medal, Northeastern Section of the ACS, in 2002, and the Basolo Medal, Northwestern University and Chicago Section of the ACS, 2002, among others.

Lippard’s research has also been recognized internationally. He was elected as an honorary member of the Italian Chemical Society in 1996, The Royal Irish Academy in 2002, and to Leopoldina, the German National Academy of Sciences, in 2004. He was presented the Centenary Medal from the Royal Society of Chemistry (UK) in 2010 and the Sacconi Medal from the Italian Chemical Society in 2012.

For his work in metalloneurochemistry, he was the inaugural co-recipient of the Christopher J. Frederickson Prize for Research in the Neurobiology of Zinc in 2012.

Lippard recently co- founded Blend Therapeutics, which features a Maestro platform product engine that is generating a pipeline of novel combination medicines designed to optimize pharmacological response and improve patient outcomes.

Stephen J. Lippard was born Oct. 12, 1940 in Pittsburgh, Pa., and earned his bachelor’s degree at Haverford College in 1962. After receiving his Ph.D. from MIT in 1965, he spent a year as a postdoctoral fellow at MIT. He then joined the faculty at Columbia University as an assistant professor in 1966, was promoted to associate professor in 1969 and full professor in 1972.

In 1983, he returned to MIT as professor of chemistry, where he served as head of the chemistry department from 1995 to 2005.

Lippard is the author of more than 800 articles in professional and scholarly journals and two textbooks, including “Principles of Bioinorganic Chemistry” with Jeremy M. Berg. He was an associate editor of the Journal of the American Chemical Society for over 20 years and holds several U.S. and foreign patents. He recently co- founded Blend Therapeutics, which features a Maestro platform product engine that is generating a pipeline of novel combination medicines designed to optimize pharmacological response and improve patient outcomes.

From 1991 to 1995, Lippard and his late wife Judy served as housemasters at MIT’s MacGregor House dormitory. During that period he taught a course on Baroque Musical Instruments and Performance. In his free time, he enjoys playing the harpsichord and is an early morning jogger along the Charles River. The Lippards have two sons, Josh and Alex, and twin granddaughters, Lucy and Annie.

Photo Credits: S. J. Lippard






Last Updated on June 7, 2014

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