Awards and Honors

Nanotechnology pioneer Chad Mirkin wins Kabiller Prize in Nanoscience and Nanomedicine

By Sheryl Cash

July 11, 2019

Northwestern University announces the winners of the 2019 international Kabiller awards, which biennially recognize two top scholars — one pioneer and one rising star — in the field of nanoscience and nanomedicine. 

EVANSTON, Ill.—Chad A. Mirkin, a professor at Northwestern University, has been selected to receive the $250,000 Kabiller Prize in Nanoscience and Nanomedicine, the world’s largest monetary award for outstanding achievement in the field of nanotechnology and its application to medicine and biology.

Molly Stevens, a professor at Imperial College London, will receive the $10,000 Kabiller Young Investigator’s Award in Nanoscience and

Chad A. Mirkin

Nanomedicine for recent groundbreaking discoveries that have potential to make a lasting impact in nanoscience and nanomedicine.

Mirkin and Stevens will officially receive their awards at a Nov. 13, 2019 banquet in Chicago. On Nov. 14, they will join four preeminent nanotechnology scientists, including 2016 Nobel Laureate Stefan Hell, to speak at the 2019 IIN Symposium in Evanston, Ill.

Established in 2015, the Kabiller Prize and Kabiller Young Investigator Award has been made possible through the generosity of Northwestern trustee and alumnus David G. Kabiller (’85, ’87 MBA). In 2018, Kabiller endowed the Kabiller Prize and Award, ensuring that this transformative recognition continues in perpetuity.

This is the first year that Northwestern researchers were eligible to receive the prize. An independent, international committee of renowned scientists selected winners from a pool of nominees.

“Professors Mirkin and Stevens exemplify the tremendous potential of nanoscience and nanomedicine to improve diagnostics and treatment for some of society’s most challenging conditions and diseases,” said Kabiller. “Their tremendous achievements are examples of why I so strongly support this revolutionary science, and the researchers who are optimizing its potential.”

Founding director of the International Institute for Nanotechnology (IIN), Mirkin is the George B. Rathmann Professor of Chemistry in Northwestern’s Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences.

“His discovery and development of spherical nucleic acids (SNAs), which form a cornerstone of bionanotechnology, have changed the way we think about and use DNA and RNA,” the award selection committee said in a statement. “He has synthesized many versions of SNAs, elucidated the fundamental chemical and physical properties that distinguish them from all other forms of matter, and used them in paradigm-shifting approaches to high-sensitivity, extra- and intracellular molecular diagnostic tools and pharmaceutical development. These include more than 1,800 commercial products in the life sciences, biomedicine and biotechnology to-date, including one of the first FDA-cleared, menu-driven, point-of-care medical diagnostic systems, platforms capable of analyzing the genetic content of single living cells, and structures exceedingly useful for the treatment of skin disorders and cancers via both gene regulation and immunomodulatory pathways. Four SNAs are currently in human clinical trials for diseases spanning brain cancer to psoriasis.”

“Professor Chad Mirkin’s achievements in the field are unprecedented,” said Northwestern University President Morton Schapiro. “On behalf of the entire Northwestern community, I want to congratulate Chad on this honor and express our gratitude to David Kabiller for his extraordinary commitment to innovation in nanoscience and nanomedicine.”

The Kabiller Prize and Award Selection Committee also recognized Professor Molly Stevens at the Imperial College London as a “rising star” in nanomedicine. Stevens is director of the UK Regenerative Medicine Platform Smart Materials Hub, deputy director of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council’s (EPSRC) Interdisciplinary Research Centre in Early Warning Sensing Systems for Infectious Diseases ( or “i-sense”) and president of the Royal Society of Chemistry’s Division of Materials Chemistry.

“She has made numerous contributions to nanomedicine, including the development of nanoparticle-based serological tests for surveillance of Ebola survivors in Uganda using smartphone-enabled technology,” the committee said. “She is also developing ultrasensitive lateral flow tests for the detection of other infectious diseases. These mobile health connected platforms have the potential to transform the way we respond to epidemics by enabling rapid, accurate and cheap testing, data sharing, and geographical tagging. A signature of Professor Stevens’ work is the combination of cross-disciplinary basic science research geared towards the development of innovative applications that address important healthcare challenges.”

Chad Mirkin

“This is a remarkable recognition for three decades of work performed by hundreds of talented researchers from all parts of the world. I am very grateful to David Kabiller for his commitment to advancing nanotechnology discoveries in biology and medicine,” Mirkin said. “David is a visionary who not only sees the tremendous potential of nanotechnology, but also understood how it could transform Northwestern University. Through this award, he is casting a spotlight on the most exciting discoveries with the potential to revolutionize how disease is studied, tracked and treated.”

Mirkin is one of the most cited chemists in the world, and one of the most cited individuals in nanotechnology in history. He is one of the few individuals elected to every U.S. National Academy (science, medicine, engineering and inventors) and the recipient of some of the world’s most prestigious prizes. With more than 1,100 issued and pending patents, and thousands of nano-based products on the market, he has played a significant role in translating his scientific discoveries into technologies that are changing the world. One of his inventions, dip-pen nanolithography, was recognized by the National Geographic as one of the top 100 innovations of the last century.

At Northwestern, Mirkin also is a professor of medicine at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and a professor of chemical and biological engineering, biomedical engineering and materials science and engineering at the McCormick School of Engineering. Mirkin served for eight years as a member of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology under President Barack Obama. He has been recognized for his accomplishments with more than 210 national and international awards, including the SCI Perkin Medal, Friendship Award, the Nano Research Award, the Raymond and Beverly Sackler Prize in Convergence Research, the Dan David Prize, the Wilhelm Exner Medal, the RUSNANOPRIZE, the Dickson Prize in Science, the American Institute of Chemists Gold Medal and the $500,000 Lemelson-MIT Prize. He has served on the editorial advisory boards of more than 20 scholarly journals, is the current associate editor of the Journal of the American Chemical Society (JACS) and the founding editor of the journal Small, one of the premier international nanotechnology journals. Mirkin also has co-edited multiple bestselling books.

Mirkin holds a bachelor’s degree from Dickinson College (’86, elected into Phi Beta Kappa) and a doctorate in chemistry from Pennsylvania State University (’89). He was a National Science Foundation postdoctoral fellow at MIT prior to becoming a professor at Northwestern University in 1991.

Molly Stevens

“I am delighted that my team’s work has been recognized by this award and am very proud of the talented multidisciplinary postdocs and students in our group, and indebted to our collaborators within the Regenerative Medicine Platform Hub and the i-sense consortium,” said Stevens. “Together, we hope to make a difference in the engineering of nanomaterials to detect diseases earlier and regenerate organs.”

Stevens is a professor of biomedical materials and regenerative medicine and the research director for biomedical material sciences at Imperial College London. She graduated with a first-class honours BPharm degree from Bath University in 1995 and a Ph.D. from the University of Nottingham in 2001. After conducting postdoctoral research at the Langer group in MIT, she joined Imperial College London in 2004 as a lecturer and was promoted to professor in 2008 as one of the youngest professors in the history of the institution.

In 2010, The Times (London) recognized Stevens as one of the top 10 scientists under the age of 40. She also received the Polymer International-IUPAC award for creativity in polymer science, the Rosenhain Medal and the Norman Heatley Prize for Interdisciplinary Research from the Royal Society of Chemistry.

Stevens’s interdisciplinary work has been highly cited, and she is included in Clarivate’s list of highly cited researchers in the interdisciplinary cross-field category. She received the Rosalind Franklin Medal from the Institute of Physics in 2018, the Clemson Award for Basic Research from the Society for Biomaterials in 2016 and the Philip Leverhulme Prize for Engineering in 2005. She also was recognized by the TR100, a compilation of the top innovators under the age of 35, who are transforming technology — and the world — with their work. Stevens is an associate editor of ACS Nano and has served on the Board of Reviewing Editors of Science. Stevens is fellow of seven U.K. societies, including the Royal Society of Chemistry and the Royal Academy of Engineering. In 2019, she was elected foreign member of the National Academy of Engineering (USA).

The article originally appeared at Northwestern Now.

The International Institute for Nanotechnology at Northwestern University is an umbrella organization that represents and unites more than $1 billion in nanotechnology research, education and supporting infrastructure.