News Release

Scientist at The Scripps Research Institute Wins Franklin Institute Award

Top Scientists in Cancer, Artificial Intelligence, Computers, Wireless Communications, Astronomy and Chemistry Honored

La Jolla, CA, January 24, 2001 -- K. Barry Sharpless, Ph.D., W.M. Keck Professor of Chemistry, Department of Chemistry and The Skaggs Institute for Chemical Biology, The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI), has been named the recipient of a 2001 Benjamin Franklin Medal from the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia. He joins other scientists whose breakthrough work in the fields of cancer, artificial intelligence, wireless communications, astronomy, computers and engineering also is being honored.

Sharpless has provided innovative contributions to the development of broadly useful and commercially viable catalytic oxidation chemistry for the selective production of bioactive molecules with the proper right or left "handedness" which allows for the manufacture of safer and more effective drugs and agricultural chemicals.

Chirality, or handedness, is the structural characteristic of a molecule that makes it impossible to superimpose it on its mirror image. Proteins, DNA, and carbohydrates are all chiral molecules: without the correct handedness, they will not function as the basic molecules of life. Many drugs must also be of correct chirality; indeed, in some cases, the wrong handedness can be toxic.

Sharpless received his B.A. from Dartmouth College in 1963 and a Ph.D. from Stanford University in 1968. In 1970, following postdoctoral studies at Stanford and Harvard Universities, he joined the faculty of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. After three years at Stanford in the late 1970s, he returned to MIT as Arthur C. Cope Professor of Chemistry. He joined TSRI's faculty in 1991. Sharpless was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1985. Other significant honors include the Tetrahedron Prize, the American Chemical Society's Award for Creative Work in Organic Synthesis and the Arthur C. Cope Award; the Prelog Medal (Switzerland); the Janssen Prize (Belgium); the Scheele Medal (Sweden); the King Faisal International Prize for Science (Saudi Arabia); the Roger Adams Award in Organic Chemistry, American Chemical Society; the Harvey Prize of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology; and most recently, the Wolf Prize in Chemistry. Also, he was listed among the "Top 75 Contributors to the Chemical Enterprise," in the 75 years since the founding of Chemical & Engineering News.

In addition to Sharpless, the 2001 Franklin Laureates are: Judah Folkman, Alan Guth, Marvin Minsky, Rob Van der Voo, Bernard Widrow, Irwin Mark Jacobs, and Paul Baran.

In the spirit of discovery embodied by Benjamin Franklin, The Franklin Institute has recognized breakthroughs in science and technology since 1824 through its international awards program. The Institute will honor these scientists with a gala awards celebration where each laureate receives a gold medal and one laureate wins the $250,000 cash prize. This year's ceremony, to be held on April 26, will be hosted by ABC news anchor Cokie Roberts.

This year's laureates are included in a list of previous honorees including such scientists as Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, Marie Curie, Edwin Hubbell, Francis Crick, Zhores Alferov, James Watson and Steven Hawking.


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