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Nobel Laureate Carolyn R. Bertozzi, PhD, to Receive 2023 AACR Award for Outstanding Achievement in Chemistry in Cancer Research

PHILADELPHIA – The American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) will honor Nobel Laureate Carolyn R. Bertozzi, PhD, with the 2023 AACR Award for Outstanding Achievement in Chemistry in Cancer Research during the AACR Annual Meeting 2023, April 14-19 in Orlando, Florida.

Bertozzi is the Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Professor of Chemistry in the School of Humanities and Sciences and a professor (by courtesy) of chemical and systems biology and of radiology at Stanford University, an investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and the Baker Family Director of Sarafan ChEM-H. Bertozzi is being recognized for advancing basic and translational cancer research through bioorthogonal chemistry and chemical glycobiology.

The AACR Award for Outstanding Achievement in Chemistry in Cancer Research was established by the AACR and its Chemistry in Cancer Research Working Group in 2007 through the support of GlaxoSmithKline to recognize the importance of chemistry to advancements in cancer research. The award recognizes outstanding, novel, and significant chemistry research that has led to important contributions in basic cancer research; translational cancer research; cancer diagnosis; the prevention of cancer; or the treatment of patients with cancer. Such research may include, but is not limited to, chemical aspects of carcinogenesis; chemical biology; drug discovery and design; imaging agents and radiotherapeutics; metabolomics and mass spectrometry; proteomics; and structural biology.

Bertozzi is credited with inventing the field of bioorthogonal chemistry, which has enabled the development of numerous experimental approaches in biological research, including innovative imaging methods, chemoproteomics, and in vivo drug targeting. Historically, chemical reaction conditions have been difficult to control in living cells. To overcome this challenge, Bertozzi hypothesized that chemical reactions could be specifically designed to occur in living organisms by carefully selecting reaction partners instead of attempting to manipulate reaction conditions. Her early research was focused on combining metabolic labeling with bioorthogonal chemistry, demonstrating that this approach allowed for targeted interrogations of biological systems. This fundamental advancement sparked a revolution in the manipulation and understanding of biological systems. However, this method often resulted in off-target reactions in cellular environments with ketone and aldehyde groups. In turn, Bertozzi developed a modified technique that avoided such issues. Now known as copper-free click chemistry, this technology is widely used by researchers worldwide for drug discovery and therapeutic development efforts.

Further advancements by Bertozzi to biorthogonal chemistry approaches have enabled large-scale production of highly stable antibody-drug conjugates, a class of therapeutics being utilized for the treatment of cancer. Advancements to this technology have led to the clinical testing of TRPH-222, a CD22-targeting antibody-drug conjugate for relapsed and refractory B-cell lymphoma. Bertozzi’s inventions have also led to the establishment of site-specific protein modification technologies, which are now used for the clinical development of antibody-drug conjugates and the preclinical development of antibody-enzyme conjugates for cancer immunotherapy.

In addition to her click chemistry work, Bertozzi discovered that tumor-associated glycans promote immunosuppression by engaging Siglec receptors on immune cells. She has been heralded for engineering antibody-sialidase conjugates, which represent a new class of therapeutically relevant molecules for the selective cleaving of immunosuppressive glycans from tumor cell surfaces. Since Siglec receptors are found on multiple types of immune cells, this strategy has the unique potential to unleash stronger antitumor immune responses than first-generation immunotherapies. Underscoring the translational impacts of this work, an antibody-sialidase conjugate is currently being evaluated in phase I clinical trials.

In addition to receiving the 2022 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, Bertozzi has been honored with numerous awards throughout her brilliant career, including the Welch Award in Chemistry (2022), the University of Pittsburgh Dickson Prize in Medicine (2022), the Dr. H.P. Heineken Prize for Biochemistry and Biophysics (2022), the Wolf Prize in Chemistry (2022), the American Association for the Advancement of Science Lifetime Mentor Award (2022), the Wistar Institute Helen Dean King Award (2022), STAT News STATUS List (2022), the Society for Glycobiology President’s Innovator Award (2020), the Nagoya Medal (2020), the Chemistry for the Future Solvay Prize (2020), the National Academy of Sciences John J. Carty Award for the Advancement of Science (2020), the University of California Los Angeles Glenn T. Seaborg Medal (2020), the Texas A&M University F.A. Cotton Medal (2020), the American Chemical Society (ACS) Gustavus John Esselen Award for Chemistry in the Public Interest (2019), the Harvard University Max Tishler Prize (2018), the National Inventor’s Hall of Fame Inductee (2017), the ACS Arthur C. Cope Award (2017), the National Academy of Sciences Award in the Chemical Sciences (2016), the Ernest Orlando Lawrence Award of the U.S. Department of Energy (2015), the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) 150th Anniversary Alumni Excellence Award (2015), the Hans Bloemendal Award (2013), the Heinrich Wieland Prize (2012), the Tetrahedron Young Investigator Award (2011), the Lemelson-Massachusetts Institute of Technology Prize (2010), the Albert Hofmann Medal (2009), the Harrison Howe Award (2009), the W. H. Nichols Award (2009), the Willard Gibbs Medal (2008), the Roy L. Whistler International Award in Carbohydrate Chemistry (2008), the Li Ka Shing Women in Science Award (2008), the Ernst Schering Prize (2007), the T.Z. and Irmgard Chu Distinguished Professorship in Chemistry (2005), the Havinga Medal (2005), the Iota Sigma Pi Agnes Fay Morgan Research Award (2004), the Irving Sigal Young Investigator Award of the Protein Society (2002), the Donald Sterling Noyce Prize for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching (2001), the University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley) Distinguished Teaching Award (2001), the ACS Award in Pure Chemistry (2001), the Merck Academic Development Program Award (2000), the UC Berkeley Department of Chemistry Teaching Award (2000), the Presidential Early Career Award in Science and Engineering (2000), the MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Award (1999), the Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award (1999), the ACS Arthur C. Cope Scholar Award (1999), the Beckman Young Investigator Award (1998), the Prytanean Faculty Award (1998), the Glaxo Wellcome Scholar (1998), the Research Corporation Research Innovation Award (1998), the Office of Naval Research Young Investigator Award (1998), the ACS Horace S. Isbell Award in Carbohydrate Chemistry (1997), the Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellow (1997), the Burroughs Wellcome New Investigator Award in Pharmacology (1997), the Pew Scholars Award in the Biomedical Sciences (1996), the Exxon Education Fund Young Investigator Award (1996), and the Camille and Henry Dreyfus New Faculty Award (1995).

Bertozzi is an elected member of the National Academy of Inventors (2013), the National Academy of Medicine (2011), the National Academy of Sciences (2005), and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (2003). In 2002, Bertozzi was elected as a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Bertozzi completed her undergraduate degree at Harvard University and earned her PhD in chemistry from UC Berkeley. She completed a postdoctoral fellowship at UCSF.

Bertozzi’s award lecture will be held on Sunday, April 16, at 4:30 p.m. ET at the Orange County Convention Center.

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