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Leroy Hood

Leroy Hood

Science & Medicine

Dr. Leroy Hood is the Co-founder and President of the Institute for Systems Biology in Seattle and one of the world's leading scientists in molecular biotechnology and genomics. He received the Lemelson-MIT Prize for inventing "four instruments that have unlocked much of the mystery of human biology" by helping decode the genome. Hood also won the Albert Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research for inventing the automated DNA sequencer and an automated tool for synthesizing DNA. A pillar in the field of biotechnology, Hood has played a role in founding fourteen major biotechnology companies, including Amgen, Applied Biosystems, Darwin, and Integrated Diagnostics. Hood grew up in Shelby, Montana in a family of engineers and researchers. In high school, he worked with a team to map a Wyoming anticline (a geological formation featuring layers of rock that bulge up out of the earth). He entered his results, which showed what had led to the buildup of oil in the anticline, in the 1956 Westinghouse Science Talent Search, and was named a finalist. When he left to go to Washington, D.C. for the finals, the high school band came down to the train station and played. He went on to the California Institute of Technology, then to Johns Hopkins Medical School, where he became immersed in the new field of immunology. Hood returned to Caltech and over the next few decades, developed a protein sequencer, which tells scientists which amino acids make up a given protein; a protein sequencer, which tells scientists which amino acids make up a given protein; a peptide synthesizer, which puts those amino acids together to form proteins; and an automated DNA sequencer, which gives scientists the genetic letters that spell out a given gene. The last was critical because it allowed scientists to gather information much more quickly. By the time the DNA sequencer made the Human Genome Project possible in the late 1990s, scientists were mapping genes at thousands of times the rate that they had done two decades before. Hood's vision and inventions had permanently influenced the course of biology and revolutionized the understanding of genetics, life and human health. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine, one of only 10 people in the world to be elected to all three academies. Hood has also received 17 honorary degrees from universities around the world. In 2007, he was elected to the Inventor's Hall of Fame. Dr. Leroy Hood participated in the 1987 Achievement Summit in Scottsdale, Arizona and spoke to the student delegates about his life-long fascination with molecular structures, technology, and the immune system.


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