Chemistry is often referred to as the “central science,” an acknowledgment of its pivotal role in connecting physics, biology and other fields of research.

At Scripps Research, chemistry is a major ingredient in the secret formula that has made us one of the most innovative research institutions in the world. We have long led the way in applying cutting-edge chemistry to solve problems in biology and medicine, in large part thanks to Richard Lerner, the long-time past president of the Institute and mentor and friend to many, who passed away in December.

In this issue of Scripps Research Magazine, you’ll read about Richard’s many contributions to the Institute and to science. His influence is explored directly in an article about his career and indirectly in other stories of the Institute’s continuing impact on many fields of research.

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In an article featuring several of our chemistry labs, you’ll learn how early-career scientists use chemical biology to decode the molecular pathways involved in diseases, find possible targets for treating intractable illnesses, and use that hard-won knowledge to generate new medicines. You’ll also read about how other labs are pushing the envelope of synthetic organic chemistry to create new substances and develop better ways to build molecules—advances that impact everything from making more effective drugs to reducing the environmental impact of industrial processes.

In a profile of Scripps Research professor and MacArthur Fellow Jin-Quan Yu, you’ll read about the life and work of one of the world’s most influential synthetic chemists. Jin-Quan came from humble origins in rural China, but his intellect, curiosity and unconventional ideas have produced a series of remarkable breakthroughs in chemistry. An interview with Ardem Patapoutian, who was awarded the 2021 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine last fall, follows the story of his childhood in war-torn Lebanon to his discovery of the molecular channels that allow us to sense touch and other mechanical forces in our bodies.

What Richard Lerner realized, and what drives much of the innovation at Scripps Research today, is that the most interesting and impactful discoveries are often made at the intersection of different areas of science. Working together, scientists from a range of fields—chemistry, immunology, neuroscience, drug discovery and so on—make advances that are surprising and have the power to improve people’s lives around the globe.

Scripps Research is the vessel where these components combine to forge something greater than the sum of their parts. It’s all in the chemistry.

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Peter Schultz, PhD
President and CEO, Scripps Research