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Richard Lerner

Richard A. Lerner

Born28 August 1938 (1938-08-28) (age 74)
Nationality United States
InstitutionsThe Scripps Research Institute
Wistar Institute
Alma materStanford Medical School
Known for 
Notable prizesWolf Prize in Chemistry

Richard A. Lerner (b. 28 August, 1938) is an American research chemist and entrepreneur. Best known for his work on converting antibodies into enzymes, Lerner is currently President and Chief Executive Officer of The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI), and a member of its Skaggs Institute for Chemical Biology, in La Jolla, California.


Lerner grew up in Chicago and excelled at chemistry and wrestling as a schoolboy.[1] After attending Northwestern University as an undergraduate, Lerner obtained an MD from Stanford Medical School in 1964 then undertook postdoctoral training at Scripps Clinic and Research Foundation, an early incarnation of the institute he would eventually lead. In the 1970s Lerner carried out research at the Wistar Institute in Philadelphia then returned to La Jolla to the, now renamed, Research Institute of Scripps Clinic. In 1982 he was appointed chairman of the Department of Molecular Biology, then five years later assumed the directorship. In 1991, when the TSRI was established as a nonprofit entity, Lerner became its first president.

In addition to his research into catalytic antibodies, providing a method of catalyzing chemical reactions thought impossible using classical techniques, Lerner has led extensive studies into protein structure,[2] characterised cis-9,10-octadecenoamide, a novel lipid hormone that induces sleep,[3] and provided the first evidence of a role for ozone in human disease.[4] As of 2007, Lerner's résumé listed 67 patents and 403 published scientific papers.[1]

In addition to his role as TSRI president , Lerner is the Lita Annenberg Hazen Professor of Immunochemistry and Cecil H. and Ida M. Green Chair in Chemistry. He has been the recipient of over 29 honors and prizes.[1] These include the Parke-Davis Award in 1978, the San Marino Prize in 1990, the Wolf Prize in Chemistry for 1994 (with Peter Schultz), the California Scientist of the Year Award in 1996 and the University of California Presidential Medal in 2002. He has also been elected to the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and the United States National Academy of Sciences. In 2007 he was awarded an honorary degree from the University of Oxford, to add to those he received from Technion – Israel Institute of Technology in 2001, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in 2003 and Florida Atlantic University in 2004.[5]

Under Lerner's leadership, The Scripps Research Institute has grown threefold in terms of laboratory space and more than quadrupled its staff levels, making it among the largest nonprofit biomedical research organizations in the world. He also oversaw the establishment of a sister research campus, called Scripps Florida, in Palm Beach County. Lerner has announced that he will leave his position as President and CEO of TSRI in 2009 to assume Chairmanship of its Board of Trustees for a two further years. In 2011 he intends to "return to full-time research in [his] laboratory."[6]

In 2005 Lerner's TSRI salary was US$1,212,071, placing among the top ten percent of nonprofit executives in the USA.[1] Lerner also serves on the boards of six for-profit and nonprofit companies, including Kraft Foods, advises four other companies and two venture capital funds. He has declined to reveal the sum of his earnings, but acknowledged he earned $8.5 million for his part in the discovery of Humira.[1]

Lerner's entrepreneurial activities has drawn criticism. A consumer advocacy organization, Public Citizen, claimed it constitutes "a conflict of interest" while acknowledging there is "nothing illegal" in his multiple activities. Donald Kennedy described Lerner's numerous commitments as "unusually rich array... But if he can manage them fairly, then I can't make a particular criticism of it."[1] Lerner's contract with TSRI stipulates he spends no more than 10% of his time on outside activities, however, and he says the actual amount is "far less."[1] Lerner has also published a novel called Epidemic 9 (ISBN 068803585X) about, according to the St. Petersburg Times, "a young scientific investigator who swears off wealth and status in favor of public service work".[1]

Lerner married Nicola Green Lerner, a physician, in 1981. He has three children by a previous marriage and two Labrador retrievers. He splits his time between homes in La Jolla, California and Jupiter Island, Florida.

See also

  • The Scripps Research Institute


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Sydney Freedberg. Scientist Tycoon. St. Petersburg Times, 17 June, 2007
  2. ^ Wilson IA, Niman HL, Houghten RA, Cherenson AR, Connolly ML, Lerner RA. The structure of an antigenic determinant in a protein. Cell. 1984 37(3):767-78. PMID 6204768
  3. ^ Cravatt BF, Prospero-Garcia O, Siuzdak G, Gilula NB, Henriksen SJ, Boger DL, Lerner RA. Chemical characterization of a family of brain lipids that induce sleep. Science. 1995 268(5216):1506-9. PMID 7770779
  4. ^ Wentworth P Jr, Nieva J, Takeuchi C, Galve R, Wentworth AD, Dilley RB, DeLaria GA, Saven A, Babior BM, Janda KD, Eschenmoser A, Lerner RA. Evidence for ozone formation in human atherosclerotic arteries. Science. 2003 302(5647):1053-6. PMID 14605372
  5. ^ Scripps Research President Lerner receives Oxford Honorary Degree. The Scripps Research Institute Press Release, 20 June, 2007.
  6. ^ The Scripps Research Institute Begins Presidential Succession Process. The Scripps Research Institute Press Release, February 13, 2006.
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Richard_Lerner". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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