Leroy Hood, MD, PhD

Co-founder and Chairman P4 Medicine institute

Dr. Leroy Hood is a world-renowned scientist, inventor, entrepreneur and visionary. His discoveries have permanently changed the course of biology, and revolutionized the understanding of genetics, life, and human health.

Dr. Hood created the technological foundation for the sciences of genomics (study of genes) and proteomics (study of proteins) through the invention of five groundbreaking instruments and by explicating the potentialities of genome and proteome research into the future through his pioneering of the fields of systems biology and systems medicine. Hood's instruments not only pioneered the deciphering of biological information, but also introduced the concept of high throughput data accumulation through automation and parallelization of the protein and DNA chemistries.

The first two instruments transformed the field of proteomics. The protein sequencer allowed scientists to read and analyze proteins that had not previously been accessible, resulting in the characterization of a series of new proteins whose genes could then be cloned and analyzed. These discoveries led to significant ramifications for biology, medicine, and pharmacology. The second instrument, the protein synthesizer, synthesized proteins and peptides in sufficient quantities to begin characterizing their functions. The DNA synthesizer, the first of three instruments for genomic analyses, was used to synthesize DNA fragments for DNA mapping and gene cloning. The most notable of Hood’s inventions, the automated DNA sequencer developed in 1986, made possible high-speed sequencing of human genomes and was the key technology enabling the Human Genome Project.

In the early 1990s Hood and his colleagues developed the ink-jet DNA synthesis technology for creating DNA arrays with tens of thousands of gene fragments, one of the first of the so-called DNA chips, which enabled measuring the levels of 10,000s of expressed genes. This instrument has also transformed genomics, biology, and medicine.

The first four instruments were commercialized by Applied Biosystems, Inc., a company founded by Dr. Hood in 1981, and the ink-jet technology was commercialized by Agilent Technologies, thus making these instruments immediately available to the world-community of scientists.

In 2000, Hood and two colleagues founded the Institute for Systems Biology (ISB), a nonprofit research institute integrating biology, technology, computation and medicine to take a systems (holistic) approach to studying the complexity of biology and medicine by analyzing all elements in a biological system rather than studying them one gene or protein at a time (an atomistic approach).

Hood’s efforts in a systems approach to disease have led him to pioneer a new approach to medicine that he coined P4 Medicine in 2003. His view is that P4 medicine will transform the practice of medicine over the next decade, moving it from a largely reactive discipline to a proactive one.

Hood's life's work has been defined by two fundamental beliefs, instilled in him while a doctoral candidate at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) by his mentor William Dreyer: always practice biology at the leading-edge; and if you really want to change biology, develop a new technology for pushing back the frontiers of biological knowledge.

Dr. Hood is one of only 11 members of all three United States National Academies, (the National Academy of Engineering, the National Academy of Sciences, and the Institute of Medicine.) He was awarded the Lasker Prize in 1987 for his achievements in immunology; the 2002 Kyoto Prize in Advanced Technology; the 2003 Lemelson-MIT Prize for Innovation and Invention; the 2011 Russ Prize for automating DNA sequencing, which has revolutionized biomedicine and forensic science; and was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2007. Hood has played a key role in founding numerous biotechnology companies, including Amgen, Applied Biosystems, Systemix, Darwin, and Rosetta.

Dr. Hood serves as Chairman of the P4 Medicine institute and as President of the Institute for Systems Biology.