Leroy Hood is cofounder and president of the Institute for Systems Biology, a research center whose pioneering approach integrates technology, computation, biology, and medicine.
Hood’s research has focused on fundamental biology and on bringing engineering to biology through development of the five instruments that constitute the technological foundation for modern molecular biology and genomics: the DNA and protein sequencers and synthesizers and the ink-jet oligonucleotide synthesizer. In particular, the DNA sequencer has revolutionized genomics by allowing the rapid automated sequencing of DNA, which played a crucial role in contributing to the successful mapping of the human genome during the 1990s.
After completing an M.D. at the John Hopkins School of Medicine and a Ph.D. in biochemistry at the California Institute of Technology, Hood began his professional career at the California Institute of Technology. While there, he and his colleagues pioneered four of the five instruments mentioned above. In the late 1980s Hood realized that to really understand immunology would require a systems approach, and he began thinking about systems biology. In 1992 he moved to the University of Washington as founder and chairman of the Department of Molecular Biotechnology, where he developed the ink-jet oligonucleotide synthesizer, which synthesizes DNA chips, and initiated systems studies on cancer biology and prion disease. In 2000 Hood cofounded the Institute for Systems Biology in Seattle, Washington.
The many awards and honors Hood has received include the Lasker Prize, the Kyoto Prize in Advanced Technology, the Lemelson–MIT Prize for Innovation and Invention, the Biotechnology Heritage Award, the Association for Molecular Pathology Award for Excellence in Molecular Diagnostics, and the Heinz Award in Technology, the Economy, and Employment. In 2007 Hood was elected to the Inventors Hall of Fame. He has received 14 honorary degrees, published more than 600 peer-reviewed papers, received 14 patents, and coauthored textbooks in biochemistry, immunology, molecular biology, and genetics. In addition he coauthored, with Dan Keveles, The Code of Codes, a popular book on the human genome project.
One of only seven scientists elected to three National Academies (the National Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Medicine, and the National Academy of Engineering), Hood is also a member of the American Philosophical Society and the American Association of Arts and Sciences. He has played a role in founding more than 14 biotechnology companies, including Amgen, Applied Biosystems, Systemix, Darwin, and Rosetta Inpharmatics.