Awards and Honors

Trustee endows international nanotechnology achievement awards

By Sheryl Cash

December 19, 2019

Northwestern Trustee David G. Kabiller (’85, ’87 MBA) is making a big impact in the world’s smallest science.

From left: David Kabiller, Kabiller Young Investigator Award Winner Molly Stevens, and Kabiller Prize Winner Chad Mirkin

In 2015, thanks to a generous donation from David Kabiller, founding principal of AQR Capital Management in Greenwich, Connecticut, the biennial Kabiller Prize and Kabiller Young Investigator Award, both honoring achievement in nanoscience and nanomedicine, were established. The $250,000 Kabiller Prize is the largest monetary award in the world celebrating researchers who have made significant contributions to the field. The $10,000 Kabiller Young Investigator Award recognizes young, emerging researchers who have made recent, groundbreaking discoveries with the potential to make a lasting impact. Recently, Mr. Kabiller endowed the program so that it will continue in perpetuity.

“These awards were established to recognize the people who are designing technologies that drive innovation in nanomedicine and also to shine a light on the great promise of nanomedicine,” said Kabiller. “While it’s hard to predict the unpredictable, I do think that when you look at the talent of the researchers choosing to study nanomedicine, combined with the innovation that we now have available to us, you’ll see massive impact in the next 15 to 20 years.”

“David has long understood the world-changing potential of nanotechnology,” Northwestern University President Morton Schapiro said. “His vision and generosity have fostered enthusiasm for the nanotechnology revolution and allowed Northwestern to play a leading role in it, through advances that are certain to bring dramatic improvements to the lives of people around the world.”

Milan Mrksich, interim vice president of research and the Henry Wade Rogers Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Northwestern, added, “David is a unique individual with a keen intellect, curiosity about the world around him, and a desire to make a difference.

“David realizes the potential of nanotechnology, and he created these important awards in 2015 to recognize and inspire researchers in the field,” said Mrksich.

The Kabiller Prize and Award winners are chosen biennially by an international committee composed of world-renowned experts in nanotechnology from three continents.

The winner of the 2019 Kabiller prize is Chad A. Mirkin, the George B. Rathmann Professor of Chemistry and the director of IIN at Northwestern. He was recognized for his discovery and development of spherical nucleic acids (SNAs), which form a cornerstone of bionanotechnology and have changed the way we think about and use DNA and RNA. SNAs are being used in paradigm-shifting approaches to high-sensitivity, FDA-cleared extra- and intracellular molecular diagnostic tools and pharmaceutical development. Molly A. Stevens, a biomedical engineer at Imperial College London, is the winner of the 2019 Kabiller Young Investigator Award and was recognized for her development of mobile health platforms with the potential to transform the way we respond to epidemics by enabling rapid, accurate and inexpensive testing, data sharing, and geographical tagging.

Previous winners of the Kabiller Prize are Robert Langer (2017), the David H. Koch Institute Professor in the Department of Biochemistry at Massachusetts Institute of Technology; and Joseph DeSimone (2015), the Chancellor’s Eminent Professor of Chemistry at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Professor Liangfang Zhang, in the Department of Nanoengineering at the University of California, San Diego, won the 2017 Kabiller Young Investigator Award; and Warren Chan, Director of the Institute of Biomaterials and Bioengineering, and Distinguished Professor of Nanobioengineering at the University of Toronto, was the winner of the 2015 Kabiller Young Investigator Award.