2023 Wolf Prize in Chemistry Announced

2023 Wolf Prize in Chemistry Announced

Author: ChemistryViews

The 2023 Wolf Prize in Chemistry is awarded jointly to Chuan He, The University of Chicago, IL, USA, Hiroaki Suga, The University of Tokyo, Japan, and Jeffery W. Kelly, Scripps Research, La Jolla, CA, USA, “for pioneering discoveries that illuminate the functions and pathological dysfunctions of RNA and proteins and for creating strategies to harness the capabilities of these biopolymers in new ways to ameliorate human diseases.”

Chuan He is honored “for discovering reversible RNA methylation and its role in the regulation of gene expression,” Hiroaki Suga is awarded “for developing RNA-based catalysts that revolutionized the discovery of bioactive peptides,” and Jeffery W. Kelly is honored “for developing a clinical strategy to ameliorate pathological protein aggregation.”

The Wolf Prizes are international awards honoring scientists and artists “for their achievements in the interest of mankind and friendly relations among peoples”. The scientific categories of the prize are medicine, agriculture, mathematics, chemistry, and physics. The Wolf Prizes in Physics and Chemistry are often considered the most prestigious awards in those fields after the Nobel Prize. The Wolf Prizes have been awarded by the Wolf Foundation since 1978 and come with USD 100,000 in prize money.


Chuan He

Chuan He is awarded the Wolf Prize for his pioneering work elucidating the chemistry and functional consequences of RNA modification. He discovered reversible RNA methylation, leading to a conceptual breakthrough regarding the functional roles of RNA modifications in the regulation of gene expression. His laboratory discovered the first RNA demethylase, an enzyme that removes the methyl group from N6-methyladenosine, the most prevalent mRNA modification in eukaryotes.

Chuan He studied chemistry at the University of Science and Technology of China (USTC) and at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Cambridge, USA, where he completed his Ph.D. in 2000. He was a Postdoctoral Fellow at Harvard University, Cambridge MA, USA, from 2000 to 2002 and then served as Assistant Professor at the University of Chicago. He was promoted to Associate Professor in 2008 and to Full Professor in 2010. He served as Director at the Institute for Biophysical Dynamics from 2012 to 2017. Since 2014, he is an Investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) and John T. Wilson Distinguished Service Professor.

Among other honors, Chuan He has received the Burroughs Wellcome Fund Investigator in the Pathogenesis of Infectious Disease Award in 2008, the Society of Biological Inorganic Chemistry Early Career Award in 2010, an Arthur C. Cope Scholar Award in 2015, and the Paul Marks Prize in Cancer Research in 2017.


Hiroaki Suga

Hiroaki Suga is awarded the Wolf Prize for developing an exceptionally innovative in-vitro selection system for cyclic peptides as inhibitors of protein–protein aggregation. He invented an RNA-based catalyst, a “flexizyme”, that transcends natural mechanisms and vastly expands the range of amino acids that can be incorporated with ribosomal machinery. His strategy enables the rapid construction and screening of enormous libraries of cyclic peptides. His discovery has established a new approach to medicinal chemistry and generated new tools for drug discovery.

Hiroaki Suga studied engineering at Okayama University, Japan, and chemistry at the University of Lausanne, Switzerland, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He received his Ph.D. at MIT in 1994. From 1994 to 1997, he served as a Postdoctoral Fellow at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School. In 1997, he became Assistant Professor at the University at Buffalo, The State University of New York, USA. In 2002, he was promoted to Associate Professor. From 2003 to 2005, Suga served as Associate Professor at the Research Center for Advanced Science and Technology, The University of Tokyo, and was promoted to Full Professor in 2005. Since 2010, he serves as Professor at the Graduate School of Science of the University of Tokyo. He founded PeptiDream, a publicly traded company and one of Japan’s most successful startup companies.

Among other honors, Suga has received the Akabori Memorial Award in 2014 from the Japanese Peptide Society, the Max-Bergmann Gold Medal in 2016 from the German Peptide Society, and the Nagoya Silver Medal in 2017. He is Advosory Editor of Angewandte Chemie.



Jeffery W. Kelly

Jeffery W. Kelly is awarded the Wolf Prize for developing a new and clinically impactful strategy to ameliorate disease caused by pathological protein aggregation. His seminal contributions revealed fundamental features of protein homeostasis (proteostasis) at the molecular level, including the interplay among protein folding, misfolding, and aggregation. Dysregulation of proteostasis is associated with a spectrum of human disease. Kelly’s group used these fundamental insights to develop the drug tafamidis, which slows disease progression in patients suffering from transthyretin amyloidosis.

Jeffery W. Kelly studied chemistry at the State University of New York at Fredonia, USA, and received his Ph.D. in organic chemistry from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, USA, in 1986. He performed post-doctoral research at Rockefeller University, New York, USA, from 1986 to 1989. From 1989 to 1995, Kelly served as Assistant Professor of Chemistry at Texas A&M University, College Station, USA. He was promoted to Associate Professor in 1995 and to Full Professor in 1997. He joined Scripps Research in 2000, where he now is Lita Annenberg Hazen Professor of Chemistry. Kelly has co-founded three biotechnology companies: FoldRx Pharmaceuticals, Proteostasis Therapeutics, and Misfolding Diagnostics.

Among other honors, Kelly has received The Protein Society – Dupont Young Investigator Award in 1999, an Arthur C. Cope Scholar Award in 2000, the American Peptide Society Vincent du Vigneaud Award in 2006, the Ralph F. Hirschmann Award in Peptide Chemistry in 2011, the E.B. Hershberg Award for Important Discoveries in Medicinally Active Substances in 2019, and the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences in 2022.

Selected Publications by Chuan He

Selected Publications by Hiroaki Suga

Selected Publications by Jeffery W. Kelly

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