Priestley Medal 2022 for Peter B. Dervan

Priestley Medal 2022 for Peter B. Dervan

Author: ChemistryViews (Photo: Science History Institute, wikimedia commons, CC BY-SA 3.0)

Peter B. Dervan, Professor Emeritus at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), Pasadena, CA, USA, has received the 2022 Priestley Medal, the highest honor of the American Chemical Society (ACS). The prize is awarded annually to recognize distinguished services to chemistry.

Dervan is honored for “his pioneering contributions in the rational design of molecules that bind sequence-specifically to DNA, work that has been foundational at the chemistry-biology interface.” The award was presented at a national awards ceremony held in conjunction with the ACS Spring Meeting & Exposition 2022.

With his work directed toward understanding the chemical principles for the sequence-specific recognition of DNA, Dervan has created a new field of bioorganic chemistry. He combined organic synthesis, physical chemistry, and biology to create synthetic molecules with affinities for predetermined DNA sequences. The work could have significant implications for medicine.

Peter B. Dervan studied chemistry at Boston College, MA, USA. He then worked with Jerome A. Berson at Yale University, New Haven, CT, USA, where he received his Ph.D. in physical organic chemistry in 1972. He spent a year at Stanford University, CA, USA, as a Postdoctoral Fellow. Dervan joined Caltech as an Assistant Professor in 1973. He was promoted to Associate Professor in 1979 and to Full Professor in 1982. He served as the Chair of the Division of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering in 1994–1999 and as Vice-President for Development and Institute Relations in 2011 and 2012. Today, he is Bren Professor of Chemistry, Emeritus, at Caltech.

Among many other honors, Dervan has received the Arthur C. Cope Award from the ACS in 1993, the Maison de la Chimie Foundation Prize in 1996, the Linus Pauling Medal and the Richard C. Tolman Medal from the ACS in 1999, the Tetrahedron Prize in 2000, the Harvey Prize from the Technion, Haifa, Israel, in 2002, the U.S. National Medal of Science in 2006, the Frank H. Westheimer Medal from Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA, in 2009, and the Prelog Medal from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) Zurich in 2015. He is a Member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the U.S. National Academy of Medicine, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Philosophical Society, as well as a Foreign Member of the French Academy of Sciences and the German National Academy of Sciences.


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