Richard Lerner, MD

Lita Annenberg Hazen Professor of Immunochemistry
Institute Professor
Department of Chemistry
California Campus


Scripps Research Joint Appointments

The Skaggs Institute for Chemical Biology

Research Focus

Catalytic Antibodies

Our laboratory is interested in catalytic antibodies, a field that takes as its principle goal an understanding of how the binding energy of proteins can be utilized to facilitate chemical transformations. This question is similar to that asked by the mechanistic enzymologist, with the important difference that the binding energy of the immune system is programmable. Accordingly, the antibody molecule with its programmable binding energy has emerged as an important tool for chemistry, not only from a practical sense but also for an understanding of reaction mechanisms and the evolution of the catalytic activity of proteins.

A large variety of chemical reactions have been catalyzed by antibodies, ranging from simple acyl-transfer reactions to interesting concerted reactions, such as the Diels Alder cycloaddition. Recently, protein engineering techniques have been utilized to allow the incorporation of cofactors such as transition metals into antibodies. Recently, reactive immunization strategies have produced an aldolase antibody having impressive properties.


M.D. (Medicine), Stanford University, School of Medicine, 1964
B.S., Stanford University, School of Medicine, 1959

Professional Experience

2013-2017 Institute Professor, Cell and Molecular Biology (CMB), Scripps Research
1989-2012 Cecil H. and Ida M. Green Chair in Chemistry, Scripps Research
1991-2011 President, Scripps Research
1987-1990 Director, Research Institute of Scripps Clinic
1982-1987 Chairman and Member, Department of Molecular Biology, Research Institute of Scripps Clinic
1980-1981 Member, Department of Immunopathology, Research Institute of Scripps Clinic
1980-1981 Head, Committee for the Study of Molecular Genetics, Research Institute of Scripps Clinic
1977-1979 Member, Department of Cellular and Developmental Immunology, Research Institute of Scripps Clinic
1974-1976 Member, Department of Immunopathology, Scripps Clinic and Research Foundation
1972-1973 Associate Member, Department of Experimental Pathology, Scripps Clinic and Research Foundation
1970-1971 Associate, Department of Experimental Pathology, Scripps Clinic and Research Foundation
1968-1969 Associate, Wistar Institute
1965-1967 Research Fellow, Department of Experimental Pathology, Scripps Clinic and Research Foundation

Awards & Professional Activities

1970 - NIH AID Career Development Award 1978 - Parke Davis Award 1985 - Elected Foreign Member, The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences 1986 - Recipient of Lita Annenberg Hazen Professor of Immunochemistry 1986 - Decorated as oficial de La Orden de San Carlos by the President of Colombia 1989 - Cecil H. and Ida M. Green Chair in Chemistry 1990 - Honorary Doctorate of Medicine, Karolinska Institute 1990 - John A. Muntz Memorial Prize, Albany Medical College, New York 1990 - San Marino Prize, Republic of San Marino 1990 - The Burroughs Wellcome Fund and the FASEB Wellcome Visiting Professor Award in Basic Medical Science 1991 - The College De France Lectureship, College De France, Paris 1991 - Arthur C. Cope Scholar Award in Chemistry, Washington, D.C. 1992 - CIBA-Geigy Drew Prize in Chemical Science, Drew University, Madison, New Jersey 1993 - Hyp J. Dauben Award in Chemistry, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington 1994 - Humboldt Research Award, Bonn Germany 1994/95 - The Wolf Prize in Chemistry 1996 - California Scientist of the Year Award 1999 - William B Coley Award for Distinguished Research in Basic and Tumor Immunology, Cancer Research Institute, New York, NY 1999 - Windaus-Medal/Award, Georg-August-Universität Göttingen, Göttingen Germany 2001 - Honorary Doctorate of Science Award Doctor Scientiarum Honoris Causa, Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, Technion City, Haifa, Israel 2002 - Doctor of Science, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL 2002 - Scientist of the Year Award, ARCS Foundation, Inc., San Diego, CA 2002 - President's Medal, University of California 2003 - Paul Ehrlich-and Ludwig Darmstaedter Prize, Frankfurt, Germany 2003 - Honorary Doctorate Degree, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Beer-Sheva, Israel 2004 - Honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters from Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, Florida 2005 - AAAS Fellow 2005 - DART/NYU Biotechnology Achievement Award in Basic Biotechnology, New York, NY 2006 - Distinguished Visiting Scientist at IBM T.J. Watson Research Center, New York 2007 - Honorary Degree of Doctor of Science, honoris causa, Oxford University, Oxford, United Kingdom Editorial Boards: Journal of Virology, Molecular Biology and Medicine, Vaccine, Bioorganic and Medicinal Chemistry Letters, Drug Targeting and Delivery, Bioorganic and Medicinal Chemistry, Molecular Medicine, Catalysis Technology, Angewandte Chemie

Selected References

All Publications

For a complete list of publications:

Wentworth, P., L.H. Jones, A.D. Wentworth, X. Zhu, N. Larsen, I.A. Wilson, X. Xu, W.A. Goddard, III., K.D. Janda, A. Eschenmoser and R.A. Lerner. Antibodies catalyze the oxidation of water. Science, 293:1806-1811, 2001.

Simenov, A, M. Matsushita, E.A. Juban, E.H.Z. Thompson, T.Z. Hoffman, M.J. Taylor, P. Wirsching, W. Rettig, J.K. McCusker, D.P. Millar, P.G. Schultz, R.A. Lerner and K.D. Janda. Blue-Fluorescent Antibodies. Science, 290:307-313, 2000.

Wentworth, A., L.H. Jones, P. Wentworth, Jr., K.D. Janda, R.A. Lerner. Antibodies have the intrinsic capacity to destroy antigens. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci., USA, 97:10930-10935, 2000.

Turner, J.M., T. Bui, R.A. Lerner, C.F. Barbas, III, and B. List. An efficient benchtop system for multigram-scale kinetic resolutions using aldolase antibodies. Chem. Eur. J. 6:2772-2774, 2000.


Full Curriculum Vitae