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Stephen Lippard wins 2016 Welch Award

MIT professor of chemistry is honored for advancements in chemical research.
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Professor Stephen J. Lippard
Professor Stephen J. Lippard
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The following is adapted from a press release from The Welch Foundation.

The Welch Foundation, one of the United States' largest sources of private funding for basic research, has named Stephen J. Lippard, the Arthur Amos Noyes Professor of Chemistry at MIT, co-winner of the Robert A. Welch Award in Chemistry. This award is given annually to foster and encourage basic chemical research and to recognize the value of chemical research contributions for the benefit of humankind as set forth in the will of industrialist Robert Alonzo Welch. Lippard, the fourth MIT faculty member to receive this honor, shares the $500,000 prize with Richard H. Holm of Harvard University. The pair will be honored at the Welch Award Banquet on Oct. 24. 

“Both Dr. Holm and Dr. Lippard represent the intrinsic mission of The Welch Foundation — to improve the lives of others through the advancement of chemical research,” said Charles W. Tate, chair and director of The Welch Foundation Board of Directors. “In addition to their important contributions to the scientific and medical communities, they are both respected as remarkable mentors and teachers, helping to usher in future generations of scientists.” 

Lippard is widely considered one of the “founding fathers” of bioinorganic chemistry, a new field at the interface of inorganic chemistry and biology. One of his most notable accomplishments is contributing to research that involves the role of metal ions in biological systems, allowing an unprecedented understanding of the mechanism and basis of cytotoxicity of a clinically very effective therapeutic drug, cisplatin. Cisplatin is one of the leading antitumor agents, and platinum drugs are used in the treatment of about half the cancer patients who receive chemotherapy. Cisplatin is especially effective against testicular cancer. Thanks, in large part, to this drug, cures are now possible in approximately 90 percent of cases. In addition, he has addressed critically important clinical issues, including how to deliver cisplatin more effectively and how to design more effective platinum drugs. 

Lippard completed his undergraduate work at Haverford College and received his PhD from MIT. Following more than 16 years at Columbia University, he returned to MIT to join the faculty in 1983. He has authored more than 900 papers and multiple patents, and co-authored a classic textbook in bioinorganic chemistry. He has also received numerous awards, including the 2004 National Medal of Science.

“Steve Lippard and Dick Holm are pioneers in the field of bioinorganic chemistry,” said Peter B. Dervan, chair of The Welch Foundation Scientific Advisory Board. “They have revealed the crucial role of metals in biology and human medicine, as well as inspired and mentored the next generation of researchers.” 

The Welch Foundation, based in Houston, is one of America’s largest private funding sources for basic chemical research. Since 1954, the organization has contributed more than $837 million to the advancement of chemistry through research grants, departmental programs, endowed chairs, and other special projects at educational institutions in Texas.

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