Nominations invited for $250,000 Kabiller Prize and $10,000 Young Investigator Award

By Mark Heiden

February 11, 2021

World’s largest monetary award for achievement in nanomedicine to be presented alongside award for early career researchers

Northwestern University is now accepting nominations for two prestigious international prizes: the $250,000 Kabiller Prize in Nanoscience and Nanomedicine, and the $10,000 Kabiller Young Investigator Award.

The deadline for nominations is May 17, 2021. Recipients will be evaluated and chosen by an independent committee of experts in nanotechnology.

Established in 2015, the Kabiller Prize is the world’s largest monetary award for outstanding achievement in nanomedicine. It recognizes researchers who have made significant, career-long contributions to the field of nanotechnology and its application to medicine and biology. The Kabiller Young Investigator Award is given to emerging researchers who have made recent groundbreaking discoveries with the potential to make a lasting impact in nanoscience and nanomedicine.

Both awards are presented biennially, and were made possible through the generosity of Northwestern trustee and alumnus David G. Kabiller.

“Nanotechnology is revolutionizing aspects of medicine, but we’re just beginning to realize the potential — not only for diagnosis and treatment of disease, but also for improving quality of life,” said Kabiller. “By recognizing pioneers in the field, we’re reaching out to the next generation of researchers with an invitation to follow in their footsteps.”

Nanoparticles for medical use are typically no larger than 100 nanometers — comparable in size to molecules in the human body. At the nanoscale, structures often have unique properties that medical researchers can leverage for treatment. For example, spherical nucleic acids (SNAs) are capable of entering cells to deliver therapeutics or stimulate an immune response. This makes SNAs uniquely effective in areas like dermatology, where they can be actively taken up by the skin to target disease-causing genes, and in vaccine design, where they can be used to train cells to fight cancer.

“There has been astonishing progress in nanomedical research over the last few years,” said Milan Mrksich, vice president for research at Northwestern and the Henry Wade Rogers Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Chemistry at the McCormick School of Engineering and Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences. “As we recognize excellence with the Kabiller Prize and Young Investigator Award, we’re also celebrating how far the field has come and how much more is within our reach.”

The recipients will be announced prior to the annual symposium of the International Institute for Nanotechnology on Nov. 4. The symposium will feature talks by both recipients.

Past recipients:

Kabiller Prize

Chad Mirkin, 2019 recipient

Chad Mirkin is the founding director of Northwestern’s International Institute for Nanotechnology and the George B. Rathmann Professor of Chemistry in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, professor of medicine at the Feinberg School of Medicine, and professor of chemical and biological engineering, biomedical engineering, and materials science and engineering at the McCormick School of Engineering.

Mirkin is one of the most cited chemists in the world and one of the most cited individuals in the history of nanotechnology. His discovery and development of spherical nucleic acids (SNAs), which form a cornerstone of bionanotechnology, have changed the way researchers think about and use DNA and RNA, leading to important advances in the treatment of diseases spanning from brain cancer to psoriasis. With more than 1,200 issued and pending patents, and thousands of nano-based products on the market, Mirkin has played a significant role in translating scientific discoveries into technologies that are changing the world.

Robert Langer, 2017 recipient

Robert Langer is the David H. Koch Institute Professor in the department of biochemistry at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and a pioneer in multidisciplinary science. The Langer Laboratory at MIT, with more than 100 students, postdoctoral fellows and visiting scientists at any given time — while maintaining more than $10 million in annual grants — is the world’s largest academic biomedical engineering laboratory.

Described by some as “the Edison of medicine,” Langer has authored more than 1,400 articles and is the most cited engineer in history. He has more than 1,284 issued and pending patents worldwide, and his patents have been licensed or sublicensed to more than 350 pharmaceutical, chemical, biotechnology and medical device companies. His lab, either alone or in collaboration, has produced 40 companies, with an estimated market value of more than $80 billion.

Joseph DeSimone, 2015 recipient

Joseph DeSimone is the Chancellor’s Eminent Professor of Chemistry at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the William R. Kenan Jr. Distinguished Professor of Chemical Engineering at North Carolina State University.

DeSimone was honored for his invention of particle replication in non-wetting templates (PRINT) technology that enables the fabrication of precisely defined, shape-specific nanoparticles for advances in disease treatment and prevention. Nanoparticles made with PRINT technology are being used to develop new cancer treatments; inhalable therapeutics for treating pulmonary diseases, such as cystic fibrosis and asthma; and next-generation vaccines for malaria, pneumonia and dengue.

Young Investigator Award

Molly Stevens, 2019 recipient

Molly Stevens, professor of biomedical materials and regenerative medicine at Imperial College London, received the award for innovative applications that address important healthcare challenges. These include the development of nanoparticle-based serological tests for surveillance of Ebola survivors in Uganda using smartphone-enabled technology.

Liangfang Zhang, 2017 recipient

Liangfang Zhang, professor at the University of California, San Diego, received the award for his creation of a unique biology-mimicking nanotechnology that holds great promise in the field of medicine. The technology takes synthetic nanoparticles and encloses them in natural cell membranes.

Warren Chan, 2015 recipient

Warren Chan, professor at the Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering at the University of Toronto, received the award for his pioneering work in the field of nano-bio interactions, particularly the manner in which nanoparticle design influences tumor delivery.