Organic Chemist Peter Schultz wins Wolf Prize in Chemistry

January 13, 1994

By Diane LaMacchia,

LBL organic chemist Peter Schultz has been named co-winner of the prestigious Wolf Prize in Chemistry for 1994/95. Schultz, 38, is a principal investigator in both the Materials Sciences and Structural Biology divisions and a professor of chemistry at UC Berkeley.

Schultz will share the $100,000 prize with Richard Lerner of the Scripps Institute. Both men are being honored for their separate work in converting antibodies into enzymes. This work, says the Wolf Foundation, "may potentially revolutionize the process of obtaining new chemical products in the laboratory and by industry."

Schultz is widely recognized for his contributions to the understanding of the mechanisms of molecular recognition and catalysis in biological systems. One example of this work is the design of highly efficient "catalytic antibodies" that are able to cut, splice, and modify biological molecules at specific points.

Schultz has also developed a new technique for studying proteins in which unnatural amino acids can be inserted site-specifically into proteins. In the last year, he and his coworkers have expanded the genetic code to include more than 80 unnatural amino acids being substituted into proteins so that their catalytic and binding properties and stability can be studied.

Schultz is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the recipient of many lectureships and awards, including the NSF Waterman, ACS Pure Chemistry, E. O. Lawrence, Protein Society Young Investigator, and Eli Lilly awards. He is also a founder of the biotech company, Affymax. He joined LBL and the chemistry department at UC Berkeley in 1985, after postdoctoral studies at MIT. His undergraduate and graduate work was done at Caltech.

The Israeli-based Wolf Foundation has presented the award each year since 1978 to honor achievements in agriculture, mathematics, chemistry, physics, medicine, and the arts. The Wolf Prize will be presented to Schultz by the president of Israel this March in Jerusalem.

Past LBL winners of the Wolf Prize include Alexander Pines of the Materials Sciences Division, and the late George Pimentel, former head of LBL's Chemical Biodynamics Division.