Carolyn Bertozzi is the Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Professor of Chemistry and Professor of Chemical & Systems Biology and Radiology (by courtesy) at Stanford University, where she also heads the Bertozzi Group research lab. Dr. Bertozzi’s lab studies cancer immunology, mycobacterial infections, and the rare hereditary disease NGLY1, all of which involve altered glycosylation as a disease driver.
Bertozzi is credited with founding the field of bioorthogonal chemistry, which refers to any chemical reaction that can be performed in living systems without interfering with native biochemical processes. These reactions have emerged as highly specific tools that can be used for investigating the dynamics and function of biomolecules in living systems.
Much of Bertozzi’s research is focused on studies of glycoscience, or the study of cell surface sugars, as it pertains to cancer, inflammatory disorders such as arthritis, and infectious diseases such as tuberculosis. “The cell surface is basically coated with sugars," said Bertozzi in an interview with Science News. "They’re what viruses, bacteria and other cells see first when they touch down on a target cell."
The biotech company Bertozzi co-founded, Palleon Pharmaceuticals, based in Waltham, Massachusetts, is currently focused on developing breakthrough drugs known as glyco-immune checkpoint inhibitors for treating cancer.
In addition to being named a MacArthur Fellow in 1999, Bertozzi has received many awards for her dedication to chemistry, and to training a new generation of scientists fluent in both chemistry and biology. She has been elected to the Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences, and American Academy of Arts and Sciences; and received the ACS Award in Pure Chemistry (2001), the Lemelson-MIT Prize (2010), and the Heinrich Wieland Prize (2012), among many other honors.
Bertozzi is also an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and currently serves as Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of the American Chemical Society.