Playing with the Molecules of Life

Friday, November 8, 2019 -
2:00pm to 3:00pm
The FUNG Auditorium
Peter Schultz

President & CEO, Scripps Research

Playing with the Molecules of Life


Our research program combines the tools and principles of chemistry with the molecules and processes of living cells to synthesize new molecules and molecular assemblies with novel physical, chemical and biological functions.  By studying the structure and function of the resulting molecules, new insights can be gained into the mechanisms of complex biological and chemical systems. Examples of this synergistic chemical/biological approach to synthesis will be discussed including (1) the addition of amino acids with novel biological, chemical and physical properties to the genetic codes of prokaryotic and eukaryotic organisms, (2) recapitulating the evolution of mitochondria in a synthetic eukaryotic system, (3) characterizing organisms with chimeric RNA-DNA genomes, and (4) and the identification of small molecules that control stem cell fate in vivo.


Peter Schultz graduated from Caltech in 1979 with a B.S. degree in Chemistry (summa cum laude) and continued there for his doctoral degree. After a postdoctoral year at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he joined the faculty at the University of California, Berkeley in 1985, where he was a Professor of Chemistry, a principal investigator at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and a Howard Hughes Institute Investigator. He joined Scripps Research in 1999 where he is currently President and Chief Executive Officer. Schultz has been a pioneer in the fields of chemical and synthetic biology. His contributions to science include the development of methods to expand the genetic code of living organisms to include new building blocks with novel chemical and biological properties and the development and application of molecular diversity technologies to problems in chemistry, materials science and medicine.

As an entrepreneur, Schultz founded nine companies in energy, materials and human health. In 1999, he founded the Genomics Institute of the Novartis Research Foundation (GNF), where he served as director until 2010. Under his leadership, GNF developed new genomics, proteomics, and drug discovery technologies and created 13 drug candidates that entered clinical trials. In 2012, he established Calibr, a nonprofit research institute focused on accelerating the creation of medicines for major unmet needs. In 2016, Calibr merged with Scripps Research to form a first-in-class, “bench-to-bedside” biomedical research organization. In early 2018, Calibr’s first drug candidates began entering clinical trials.

The co-author of more than 600 scientific publications, Schultz has trained over 300 coworkers, many of whom are on the faculty of major universities throughout the world. He has received numerous awards including the Wolf Prize in Chemistry (1994), the Paul Erhlich and Ludwig Darmstaedter Award (2002), the ACS Arthur C. Cope Award (2006), and the Solvay Prize (2013), and is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, USA (1993) and the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences (1998).