(L to R): Ohio University President Roderick J. McDavis, National Academy of Engineering Chair Irwin M. Jacobs, Russ Prize recipient Leroy Hood, and National Academy of Engineering President Charles Vest pose at the gala
Feb 23, 2011
By Colleen Carow
The engineering profession's highest honors for 2011 were presented by the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) during a black-tie dinner event Tuesday at Union Station in Washington, D.C.
Leroy Hood of Seattle, Wash., was honored with the Fritz J. and Dolores H. Russ Prize, created by Ohio University with a gift from alumnus Fritz Russ and his wife, Dolores.
Leroy Hood received the $500,000 biennial award – which recognizes a bioengineering achievement in widespread use that significantly improves the human condition — for developing the DNA sequencer.
"One of the university's greatest sources of pride is the Russ Prize – a vision Fritz and Dolores had decades ago," said Ohio University President Roderick J. McDavis during his address to hundreds of science and engineering leaders from across the world.
Hood's invention made possible the sequencing of the human genome in just more than a decade instead of a century.
"The human genome project transformed biology as perhaps no other science project has ever done," Hood stated in his address, noting that the project "democratized" all human genes by making them accessible to all biologists.
An inventor, scholar and visionary, Hood has been a pioneer in bringing engineering to biology through his invention and commercialization of many of the key analytic instruments in use today, and through his successful application of these instruments to some of the most fundamental problems in modern biology and medicine.
To date, more than 1,000 genomes have been revealed using the automated DNA sequencer, transforming many areas of biology. The advancement has also led to expressed sequence tagging, which ultimately helped to predict gene function; the ability to identify genes involved in diseases; a change in how pharmaceutical companies make drugs; and an economic impact in the life sciences and healthcare estimated to be in the hundreds of billions of dollars.
Hood, president and co-founder of the non-profit Institute for Systems Biology, and his colleagues currently are utilizing advances in genomics, proteomics, and molecular diagnostics to pioneer advances in diagnostics, therapeutics, and prevention that will focus increasingly on promoting wellness rather than merely treating disease.
Hood predicts a sea change in healthcare as we know it with the advent of what he terms "P4" medicine (predictive, preventive, personalized and participatory) – made possible by his work.
"This revolutionary new medicine will have important societal implications by sharply turning around the ever escalating costs of healthcare, and important medical implications because the twin vision of P4 medicine are wellness quantified and disease demystified," Hood explained.
McDavis and Hood were joined in the nation's capital by Dennis Irwin, dean of the Russ College of Engineering and Technology; other university representatives; Russ College board members; Russ Prize committee members; and about two dozen Russ family members.
Previous Russ Prize recipients are Elmer Gaden (2009), engineering and commercialization of biological systems for large-scale manufacturing of antibiotics and other drugs; Yuan-Cheng "Bert" Fung (2007), the father of biomechanical engineering; Leland C. Clark Jr. (2005), inventor of biosensors; Willem J. Kolff (2003), the father of artificial organs; and Earl E. Bakken and Wilson Greatbatch (2001), inventors of the heart pacemaker.