The American Chemical Society (ACS) has selected Peter B. Dervan, Ph.D., the California Institute of Technology’s (Caltech’s) Bren Professor of Chemistry, Emeritus, as the recipient of the 2022 Priestley Medal, the Society’s highest honor.
ACS awards the Priestley Medal annually to a single individual for distinguished services to chemistry. Dervan is being honored specifically for his pioneering contributions in rational design of molecules that bind sequence-specifically to DNA, work that has been foundational at the chemistry-biology interface.
Dervan earned his bachelor’s degree from Boston College in 1967 and his Ph.D. from Yale University in 1972. He joined Caltech as an assistant professor in 1973, and was named associate professor in 1979 and professor in 1982. He served as the chair of the division of chemistry and chemical engineering from 1994 to 1999 and as vice president for development and institute relations from 2011 to 2012.
Dervan’s research has focused on the intersection between biology and chemistry, a field known as chemical biology. He has developed a number of synthetic molecules that bind to specific DNA sequences and can regulate gene expression – the process in which a gene is used by a cell.
In addition to the Priestley Medal, Dervan is a recipient of the National Medal of Science and is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Medicine, the American Philosophical Society and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences; a fellow of the National Academy of Inventors; and a foreign member of the French Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina in Germany. He has also received awards that include the Wilbur Cross Medal, the Ronald Breslow Award for Achievement in Biomimetic Chemistry, the Linus Pauling Medal and the Tetrahedron Prize.
Dervan has served as a member of the Yale Corporation, the university’s governing board, and as the chair of the scientific advisory board at the Welch Foundation, a nonprofit organization that provides funding to chemistry researchers.