Northwestern University scientist Chad A. Mirkin, a world-renowned leader in nanotechnology research and its application, has been named 2013 Chemistry World Entrepreneur of the Year by the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC). The award recognizes an individual’s contribution to the commercialization of research.
The RSC is honoring Mirkin for his invention of spherical nucleic acids (SNAs), new globular forms of DNA and RNA. These structures form the basis for more than 300 products commercialized by licensees of the technology.
Mirkin is the George B. Rathmann Professor of Chemistry in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences and professor of medicine, chemical and biological engineering, biomedical engineering and materials science and engineering. He is director of Northwestern’s International Institute for Nanotechnology.
SNAs form the basis for several Food and Drug Administration-cleared, high-sensitivity medical diagnostic tools used to screen patients for infectious diseases, genetic abnormalities and different forms of cancer. They are also the basis for powerful new research tools called NanoFlares that allow scientists to study and measure the intracellular genetic content of live cells — capabilities important in cancer research and drug discovery. Finally, SNAs are the basis for seven lead compounds being developed in the pharmaceutical industry as potent new forms of gene regulation therapy for many ailments, including brain cancer, psoriasis and wound healing.
In addition to his work with SNAs, Mirkin is the inventor and chief developer of three pioneering nanoscale fabrication and analytical tools: Dip-Pen Nanolithography, Polymer Pen Lithography and Beam-Pen Lithography. Mirkin has more than 900 U.S. and foreign patents (233 issued) and is the founder of four Chicago-based companies, including AuraSense Therapeutics and Nanosphere.
A member of President Obama’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, Mirkin is the recipient of more than 80 national and international awards. He is the only chemist to be elected to all three branches of the U.S. National Academies. He is also the co-chairman of the nanotechnology journal Small.