Peter Schultz, PhD

The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) has honored Scripps Research President and CEO Peter Schultz, PhD, with the 2021 NAS Award in Chemical Sciences for pioneering new approaches in chemical and synthetic biology that address challenges in health, energy and materials science. 

The NAS Award in Chemical Sciences is presented annually to an individual whose innovative research in the chemical sciences has contributed to a better understanding of the natural sciences and to the benefit of humanity. The award, sponsored by Merck & Co., is presented with a medal and a $15,000 prize. 

Schultz has made many innovative contributions to the interface between chemistry and biology—notably the exploitation of molecular diversity in the creating of new medicines and materials, and the rational expansion of the genetic code. 

“Schultz has demonstrated that traditional chemical tools, used together with modern cellular and molecular biology methods, can enable chemists to manipulate cellular machinery in amazing new ways,” the National Academy of Sciences said in a statement. 

For example, Schultz’s work has made it possible to add new building blocks to the genetic code, removing a billion-year constraint on living organisms. This allows scientists to “program” cells to create valuable medicines, agricultural aids and other high-value products that improve human wellbeing. 

He has also harnessed molecular diversity to create new catalysts, medicines and materials— first in reprogramming the immune system to make enzyme-like catalysts, and more recently developing and applying large libraries of chemical and biological compounds to find new materials and innovative drugs for aging, cancer and infectious disease.