Past Winners of the Winthrop-Sears Medal

Phillip Sharp

Phillip Sharp, the 2007 winner, with his Winthrop-Sears Medal.

The Chemists’ Club’s Winthrop-Sears Medal has been given out in conjunction with CHF since 2003. For a complete list of the winners of the Winthrop-Sears Medal dating back to 1970, visit The Chemists’ Club’s Web site.

2009 | Zsolt Rumy

Zsolt Rumy has been a leader in the carbon fiber industry for more than 20 years. He founded Zoltek Companies in 1975 with a second mortgage on his home, and in 1988 he entered the carbon fiber business with the goal of producing and marketing carbon fibers as a low-cost but high-performance reinforcement for composites used as primary building materials in everyday commercial products. As chairman, president, and CEO of Zoltek, Rumy continues to guide the firm’s successful growth today.

Rumy was born in 1942 in Budapest, Hungary. During the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, his family immigrated to the United States, settling in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the following year. Rumy received a B.S. in chemical engineering from the University of Minnesota in 1966 and later conducted postgraduate studies in business administration at Loyola University and St. Louis University. Before starting his own business he worked at Monsanto Company, W. R. Grace and Company, and General Electric Company.

Zoltek began as an industrial equipment and services company. It entered the carbon fibers industry through an acquisition in 1988 and began manufacturing aerospace carbon fibers from inexpensive, textile-type acrylic fibers, which reduced the cost and price of this strong, lightweight material to a level that allowed for commercial and industrial applications. Upon becoming the worldwide leader in rated capacity for making low-cost, high-performance carbon fiber through a proprietary continuous carbonization process, Zoltek has worked with various industries—including oil, automobile, and alternative energy—to open new applications and markets made possible by the ready availability of inexpensive carbon fibers.

Rumy currently serves on the Entrepreneurship Council of Washington University and the board of directors of Southwest Bank. He was instrumental in establishing the World Trade Center of St. Louis, serving as its first chairman and as a director. He previously served on the boards of Webster University and Liberty Mutual Insurance and is a former president of the St. Louis County Economic Development Council. Rumy was named Missouri’s Small Business Person of the Year in 1992 and St. Louis’s High Technology Entrepreneur of the Year in 1996.

2008 | Haldor Topsøe

Haldor Topsøe’s deep conviction that technology, applied engineering, good scientific research, and focused process and product development are the essential means for enhancing opportunities for the world to conquer hunger, malnutrition, and disease is the driving force behind the accomplishments of this world-class engineer.

Haldor Topsøe graduated with a degree in chemical engineering from the Technical University of Copenhagen and began his career with Aarhus Oliefabrik A/S. In 1940 he established the Haldor Topsøe Company, which is devoted to the development of catalysts and their use in commercial processes.

Topsøe has applied his knowledge of catalysis, fertilizers, and energy to issues related to overpopulation, scarcity of resources, environmental protection, and capital transfer. He has participated in industrial and advisory collaborations with leaders all over the world to address these problems and has established transfer technology projects in Turkey, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, and China as well as countries in the Middle East, North Africa, and Eastern Europe.

Topsøe helped establish the Danish Nuclear Research Station after World War II and served as a member of its board; he also participated in the first International Conference on Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy in Geneva. He was involved in the creation of Denmark’s Board for Technical Scientific Research and is an active member of the Danish Engineering Society, the Danish Academy for Technical Sciences, the United States National Academy of Engineering, the Swedish Academy for Technical Sciences, and the American Institute of Chemical Engineers.

For his business and philanthropic successes, Topsøe has been awarded the Gold Medal of the Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters, the Knight of Dannebrog, the G. A. Hagemann Medal, the C. F. Tietgen Medal, and the Queen’s Medal for Meritorious Service. He has also received honorary degrees from Aarhus University, the Technical Institute of Copenhagen, and Chalmers University, Sweden.

2007 | Phillip Sharp

Phillip A. Sharp’s landmark achievement was the discovery of RNA splicing in 1977. This work provided one of the first indications of the startling phenomenon of “discontinuous genes” in mammalian cells. The discovery that genes contain nonsense segments that are edited out by cells in the course of utilizing genetic information is important in understanding the genetic causes of cancer and other diseases. Sharp’s research opened a new area in molecular biology and forever changed the field. For this work, he received the 1993 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

Sharp’s current focus is understanding how RNA molecules act as switches to turn genes on and off (RNA Interference). These newly discovered processes have revolutionized cell biology and could potentially generate a new class of therapeutics.

Sharp earned a B.A. degree from Union College and a Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana. He completed his postdoctoral training at the California Institute of Technology, where he studied the molecular biology of plasmids from bacteria in Professor Norman Davidson’s laboratory. He was a senior scientist at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory until 1974, when he joined the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Center for Cancer Research, which he directed from 1985 to 1991. He subsequently led the Department of Biology from 1991 to 1999, before assuming the directorship of the McGovern Institute from 2000 to 2004. His research interests have centered on the molecular biology of gene expression relevant to cancer and the mechanisms of RNA splicing.

Sharp has authored over 350 scientific papers and received numerous awards and honorary degrees. Besides the Nobel Prize, his awards include the Gairdner Foundation International Award, the Alfred P. Sloan, Jr., Prize for Cancer Research, the Albert Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research, the National Medal of Science, and the inaugural Double Helix Medal from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. Sharp is an elected member of the National Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Medicine, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Philosophical Society. He has also served on various advisory boards for government, academic institutions, scientific societies, and companies. Sharp has cofounded several companies, including Biogen (now Biogen Idec).

2006 | Sol J. Barer

Sol J. Barer is the founder and CEO of Celgene, a renowned $12-billion biotechnology company that discovers, develops, and commercializes pharmaceuticals for the treatment of serious and debilitating diseases, including cancer.

Barer founded Celgene in 1980 as a unit of the Celanese Corporation. Following the 1986 merger of Celanese with the American Hoechst Corporation, Barer helped Celgene spin off as an independent biopharmaceutical company. He established and implemented Celgene’s overall business strategy and led the development of its technology platforms (oncology and immunology). Today Celgene possesses one of the strongest pipelines in the biotechnology industry, using innovative therapies to bring important benefits to thousands of cancer patients around the world. The company continues to demonstrate its commitment to the development and rapid advance of promising new cancer drugs and to the entire breadth of its assistance programs. Celgene has been successful in enabling more patients to gain access to the therapies they need.

In addition to being named the 2006 recipient of the Winthrop-Sears Award, Barer has received the Emerald Entrepreneurial and Excellence Award from Emerald Asset Management, the Albert Einstein Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Life Sciences from Global Capital Associates and the Jerusalem Fund, the INSIGHTS Award from the William S. Graham Foundation for Melanoma Research (The “Billy Foundation”), and the Dart/NYU Biotechnology Achievement Award in Applied Biotechnology from the Biotechnology Study Center of New York University’s School of Medicine.

Barer is a National Defense Education Act Graduate Fellow, a National Science Foundation Undergraduate Research Fellow, and a New York State Regents Scholar. He holds a doctorate in organic chemistry from Rutgers University and bachelor’s degrees in chemistry and math from the City University of New York.

2005 | Herbert Boyer

Herbert W. Boyer, Ph.D., has served as a director of Genentech since he co-founded the company in 1976 with Robert A. Swanson, a venture capitalist. He was also a vice president of the company from 1976 to 1990. A biochemist and genetic engineer, Boyer had demonstrated the usefulness of recombinant DNA technology to produce medicines, which laid the groundwork for Genentech's development.

In addition to his role at Genentech, Boyer was a professor at the University of California at San Francisco and an investigator for the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. At the time Genentech was formed, Boyer was a professor of biochemistry and biophysics at the University of California at San Francisco as well as the director of the graduate program in genetics. He has taught in the microbiology department as well.            

In 2004, Boyer and Dr. Stanley N. Cohen of Stanford University were awarded the Albany Medical Center Prize in Medicine and Biomedical Research, the largest prize in medicine in the United States, and the Shaw Prize in Life Science and Medicine, for their discovery of recombinant DNA technology. Boyer and Cohen were also awarded the 1996 Lemelson-MIT Prize, the world's single largest cash prize for American invention and innovation, and the prestigious Swiss Helmut Horten Research Award in 1993 for their pioneering use of research in the use of gene technology in medicine.

In 1985, Boyer was elected to the California Inventors Hall of Fame and is an elected member of the National Academy of Sciences. Boyer received the Golden Plate Award from the American Academy of Achievement in 1981 and the Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award in 1980. He is a Fellow in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and received the Industrial Research Institute Achievement Award in 1982. Boyer sits on the editorial boards of several scientific publications and has written or co-written over 100 scientific articles.          

Boyer received his bachelor's degree in biology and chemistry in 1958 from St. Vincent College in Pennsylvania. He received his master's and doctorate degrees from the University of Pittsburgh in 1960 and 1963, respectively.

2004 | George Rosenkranz

George Rosenkranz, a retired chairman of Syntex Corporation, led development of the oral contraceptive pill and the production of corticoids and other steroid drugs. During his first years with Syntex, Rosenkranz headed research groups which conducted the development of the oral contraceptive pill and the production of corticoids and other steroid drugs. New techniques were developed under his direction, using plant sources as raw materials, a process which augmented the very limited and precious supply which could only be obtained from animals.

Since 1945 Rosenkranz's accomplishments have encompassed every aspect of the steroid hormone industry, and he has published more than 300 articles on steroid hormones.

Rosenkranz is a member of the New York Academy of Science, and member emeritus of the Chemical Societies of the United States and Switzerland. He is a member of the Board of Governors of the University of Tel Aviv and the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovoth, Israel. He is also an Honorary Fellow of the International College of Dentistry.

The National Academy of Medicine of Mexico made Rosenkranz an honorary member in recognition of his dedication to teaching and scientific work at Syntex.

In addition to leadership in science, Rosenkranz is a world-class bridge player. He has authored eleven books on contract bridge and has won eleven U. S. National Bridge Championships. In 1983 he was a member of the North American Bridge Team that took fourth place in the World Bridge Championships. In 2000 Dr. Rosenkranz was the recipient of the American Contract Bridge League's "Blackwood Award" and entered into the ACBL's Hall of Fame for his contributions as theorist, writer and player.

2004 | Alejandro Zaffaroni

Alejandro Zaffaroni, former president, Syntex Laboratories and the Syntex Research Institute, was instrumental in the development of the oral contraceptive pill at Syntex. In a long and distinguished career, he founded and co-founded many companies that became world leaders in medical technology. Zaffaroni developed controlled drug delivery technology, more commonly known as “the patch,” and founded ALZA Corporation to bring this important technology to the world market.

A native of Montevideo, Uruguay, Zaffaroni joined Syntex Corporation in 1951. At the time, Syntex was a small chemical company in Mexico, that was becoming prominent in steroid research. He subsequently played a key role in transforming it into a major pharmaceutical company that pioneered the development of the birth control pill.

In addition to ALZA, Zaffaroni founded DNAX Ltd., Affymax, Affymetrix, Alexa, Maxygen, Inc. and SurroMed, Inc. companies that developed and marketed unique medical and pharmaceutical products. He also cofounded Symyx, the combinatorial chemistry company dedicated to the discovery of materials such as superconductors, magnets, catalysts and polymers.

Among his many honors, in 1995 Dr. Zaffaroni was awarded the National Medal of Technology by President Clinton in recognition of his contributions to the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries. In 1998, he became the first recipient of the “Lifetime Achievement Award”, The University of California at Berkeley Entrepreneurs Forum, Berkeley, and was elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science for pioneering accomplishments in controlled drug delivery systems and for visionary leadership in developing new products and technologies that have revolutionized the pharmaceutical industry.

2003 | Robert W. Gore

Robert W. Gore, who earned a doctorate in chemistry in 1963, invented what would later become known as GORE-TEX while experimenting with Teflon in 1970. He discovered a way to stretch the material at microscopic levels, creating a fabric with holes large enough for body heat and moisture to escape, but small enough to deflect raindrops.  The patent for GORE-TEX fabric was approved in 1976.  During a period of explosive growth- as GORE-TEX found its way into space suits, sporting apparel, filters and artificial arteries- Bob Gore assumed the presidency of the company.

By the 1980s, GORE-TEX related products generated the majority of W.L. Gore & Associates, Inc’s sales.  Globally, Gore operated about 30 plants. The business continued to develop new uses for GORE-TEX. 

W.L. Gore & Associates, Inc lost full control of several critical patents in the early 1990’s, removing barriers to entry for competitors, but Gore deftly exploited its perception of higher quality and durability in traditional market segments while simultaneously introducing new uses for GORE-TEX. The rapidly expanding oral care and medical markets have not only sustained W.L. Gore & Associates, Inc, but instead have allowed the company to prosper when many predicted its decline.

Mr. Gore has been recognized by numerous universities and professional and industry organizations for his distinguished and sustained contributions to the chemical enterprise and for his evident abilities in recognizing and developing the commercial potential of chemical technologies. He holds numerous patents either individually or jointly.

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