American Chemical Society honors translational medicine pioneer Paul Schimmel as a life-changing entrepreneur

Schimmel will receive the 2020 Kathryn C. Hach Award for Entrepreneurial Success, which honors those who have used the transforming power of chemistry to improve lives. 

November 11, 2019

JUPITER, FL — Paul Schimmel, PhD, has been named the recipient of the 2020 Kathryn C. Hach Award for Entrepreneurial Success by the American Chemical Society (ACS). The Hahn Professor in the Department of Molecular Medicine at Scripps Research, Schimmel is a world-renowned expert in studying the enzymes and processes involved in correcting errors that can occur in the interpretation of genetic information.

The Hach Award recognizes outstanding entrepreneurs who have created commercially viable businesses or products within the chemical enterprise, which have made a positive impact on people and the economy.Starting with a good idea, sustained by passion, fueled by persistence and hard work, the award recipient created something where nothing existed before,” ACS says in a statement.

Schimmel’s career-long focus has been on a group of universal enzymes, the 20 aminoacyl tRNA synthetases, which interpret genetic information in all living organisms. Research he published in the early 1980s established the concept of ESTs (expressed sequence tags) and the strategy of shotgun sequencing—work that Nature magazine cited as one of the four foundations of the human genome project. 

He has founded or co-founded multiple biotechnology companies, including Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, Cubist Pharmaceuticals (acquired by Merck and Co.), aTyr Pharma, Abide Pharmaceuticals, Alkermes, Sirtris Pharmaceuticals (acquired by GlaxoSmithKline) and RepliGen Corp. He also was founding director of Momenta Pharmaceuticals.

“I’m honored to be recognized by the ACS as entrepreneur who has used the transforming power of chemistry to improve people’s lives,” says Schimmel. “My achievements have been possible because of the many remarkable colleagues in my laboratory and throughout Scripps Research who have helped me turn discoveries into products that improve health. Being able to make that contribution to the greater community will always be my driving force.”

Most recently, Schimmel’s lab, in collaboration with others at Scripps Research, described an enzyme, YRSACT, that can boost production of blood platelets, which are tiny blood cells that help the body form clots to stop bleeding. The discovery may lead to a future therapeutic for internal bleeding.

In other work, Schimmel and his colleagues at the Ackerman laboratory (University of California, San Diego) identified a protein, ANKRD16, that plays a critical role in ensuring that genes are properly translated into proteins, thus maintaining healthy brain cells. His lab is also making efforts to develop tRNA synthetases to treat diseases such as macular degeneration and cancers.

Schimmel earned his doctoral degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He is the author or co-author of 500 scientific publications, as well as coauthor of a widely used three-volume textbook on biophysical chemistry. Schimmel is an elected member of the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Medicine, National Academy of Inventors, American Philosophical Society,  American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and American Association for the Advancement of Science. He is also cofounder or founding director of numerous enterprises that have developed new medicines arising from academic research.

Schimmel will receive his award, which is sponsored by the Kathryn C. Hach Award Endowment, at a ceremony on March 24, 2020, in conjunction with the ACS Spring National Meeting in Philadelphia. He will receive a $20,000 prize and will be featured in the official ACS publication, Chemical & Engineering News. 

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