UMass Amherst Chemist Wins Royal Society Award for Pioneering Research

Vince Rotello
Vince Rotello

AMHERST, Mass. – The U.K. Royal Society of Chemistry’s (RSC) Organic Division announced today that it has selected Vincent Rotello, the Charles A. Goessmann Professor of Chemistry and a Distinguished Professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, to receive the 2016 Bioorganic Chemistry Award for his “pioneering research in using chemistry of nanomaterials to understand and modulate biological processes.”

The award comes with a prize of £2000 (about $2,900) and a medal. In addition, the society invites Rotello, who is a fellow of the RSC, to deliver lectures at up to four U.K. universities between September 2016 and May 2017, which they will coordinate for him.

Rotello’s research focuses on using synthetic organic chemistry to engineer the interface between the synthetic and biological worlds, and encompasses devices, polymers and nanotechnology/bio-nanotechnology, with over 475 peer-reviewed papers published to date. His bio-nanotechnology research includes delivery, imaging, diagnostics and nano-toxicologyprograms. He says, “We use the tools of organic chemistry to build new therapeutics and diagnostics, and to understand how biology works.”

“Receiving the Bioorganic Chemistry Award is a particular honor for me. Interfacing the capabilities of organic chemistry with the biological world has been the cornerstone of my career. The atom-by-atom control of synthetic chemistry coupled with the rigor of physical organic methodologies has allowed to us answer biological questions, and more recently to develop new therapeutics and diagnostics,” he adds.

A world leader in using gold nanoparticles for biological applications, Rotello’s recent work suggests that nanoparticle-fluorescent protein sensors can be used for rapidly determining drug mechanisms, a promising path for developing new anti-cancer therapies. Most recently, his group developed a new strategy for doing synthetic chemistry inside cells, which may offer a new way to activate drugs at tumor sites.

Rotello received his B.S. in chemistry in 1985 from Illinois Institute of Technology and his Ph.D. in chemistry in 1990 from Yale University. He was a National Science Foundation postdoctoral fellow at Massachusetts Institute of Technology from 1990-1993, and joined the faculty at the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 1993.

He has been the recipient of the NSF CAREER and Cottrell Scholar awards, as well as the Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar, the Sloan Fellowships, the Langmuir Lectureship, the Cedric Hassell Lectureship, European Symposium on Biological Chemistry, and the Transformational Research and Excellence in Education Award presented by Research Corporation. Rotello is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and was recognized in 2014 and 2015 by Thomson Reuters as one of the “Most Influential Scientific Minds.” He is currently the editor in chief of Bioconjugate Chemistry, and is on the editorial board of 14 other journals.