Dr. Hood conceived and realized the use of automated instruments in molecular biology and molecular genetics, fields which had hitherto depended primarily on the technical prowess of scientists. Through such innovations, he helped complete the mapping of the human genome, an extraordinary contribution to the advancement of life science and one that had been predicted to take nearly a century to accomplish.
New Protein Sequenator with Increased Sensitivity, Science 207:523(with M. W. Hunkapiller), 1980
A Microchemical Facility for the Analysis and Synthesis of Genes and Proteins, Nature 310:105 (with M. W. Hunkapiller and others), 1984
Fluorescence Detection in Automated DNA Sequence Analysis, Nature 321:674 (with L. M. Smith and others), 1986
A New Strategy for Genome Sequencing, Nature 381:364 (with J. C. Venter and others), 1996
Dr. Leroy E. Hood conceived and realized the use of automated instruments in molecular biology and molecular genetics, fields which had hitherto depended primarily on the technical prowess of scientists. Through such innovations, Dr. Hood helped complete the mapping of the human genome, an extraordinary contribution to the advancement of life science and one that had been predicted to take nearly a century to accomplish.
In the 1970s, scientists made important steps in the field of genetic engineering, foremost among which were DNA fragmentation and cloning and the subsequent technology of DNA sequencing. Such methods, however, required considerable time and skill on the part of scientists.
Dr. Hood developed a high-speed, automated peptide sequencer that was approximately 100 times more sensitive than previous instruments, making it possible to automatically identify the sequence of amino acids within proteins, key components of the human body. The dramatically increased sensitivity of Hood’s sequencer, which employed a gas-phase-based detection method, allowed scientists for the first time to analyze trace proteins in living organisms.
In 1984, Dr. Hood pioneered an automated peptide synthesizer and an automated DNA synthesizer, technologies that contributed to the rapid diffusion of PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction), a DNA amplification technique developed around the same time. These important innovations facilitated and stimulated the subsequent remarkable progress in all areas of DNA research. In 1986, Dr. Hood announced the world’s first automated fluorescent DNA sequencer, a groundbreaking invention that made the deciphering of three billion genetic codes an attainable goal. This automation drastically reduced the time required for sequence determination and formed the prototype for the capillary DNA sequencer widely used today.
A working draft of the entire human genome sequence was published in 2001. This rapid advancement of the Human Genome Project was made possible in large part by Dr. Hood’s DNA synthesizer and sequencer.
The progress and achievements of genomics are expected to lead to revolutionary new medical applications, such as the specification of optimal methods of treatment for individuals. In addition, the deciphering of genetic information for other species will undoubtedly facilitate solutions for the food crisis and environmental problems as well as provide important insights into the history of life evolution. The various high-speed, automated instruments pioneered by Dr. Hood have been fundamental to progress in genomic science. For this reason, the Inamori Foundation is pleased to present the 2002Kyoto Prize in Advanced Technology to Dr. Leroy Edward Hood.
My scientific career has had two major thrusts: to practice leading-edge biology, and to develop technologies that breach the barriers to deciphering biological information. The integration of these two efforts has been extremely challenging. As I review my life, I see the emergence of life interests and choices that have both directly and indirectly influenced my career path: a love of the outdoors, sports, and exercise; a love of music, both playing and listening; an early appreciation of the importance of communication skills and a love of teaching; a fascination with reading and writing; the ability to think and act independently; a love of science and technology; and the leaderships skills to change the administrative structures under which science is practiced. I will discuss my early life, my educational decisions, and my early career path choices. I will discuss my past scientific accomplishments and how they logically led into my current efforts at the Institute for Systems Biology in Seattle to define a new approach to biology – systems biology – and a new view of medicine – predictive and preventive medicine. I will discuss the ethical, social, and legal challenges the “new biology” brings and contend that a critical part of dealing with these challenges is the scientific education of society. In this regard, the Institute for Systems Biology has major programs in K-12 science education. Finally, I will discuss what I believe is the essence of being an academic and the challenges and opportunities that lie before all of us as humans.