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Presidential Distinguished Speaker Series: Leroy (Lee) Hood (BS'60 biology; PhD'68 biochemistry)

March 27, 2023

To: The Caltech Community
From: Thomas F. Rosenbaum, Sonja and William Davidow Presidential Chair and Professor of Physics

I am pleased to announce the launch of the Presidential Distinguished Speaker Series. This triannual series will feature eminent speakers addressing timely topics in science and engineering, culture, public policy, and American higher education.

We will kick off the series on April 10, 2023 with an address by Caltech Distinguished Alumnus Leroy (Lee) Hood (BS'60 biology; PhD'68 biochemistry). The lectures will be held on weekdays at 5 p.m. to facilitate attendance, offer a question-and-answer session as part of the talk, and a small post-speech reception to encourage further engagement with the speaker.

Lee is emblematic of the profile we seek for the series: an individual whose discoveries have transformed an intellectual realm, with implications across the disciplines, and, in his case, led to technologies that have improved the human condition. 

Lee developed as a scientist at Caltech, matriculating as an undergraduate student in the late 1950s and graduating with a PhD in the late 1960s. To round out his education and professional training, Lee earned an MD from Johns Hopkins in 1964. Lee joined Caltech's faculty in 1967 and continued his explorations of the depth and intricacy of human biology. In true Caltech fashion, Lee and his colleagues developed four sequencer and synthesizer instruments that paved the way for the Human Genome Project's successful mapping and understanding of the human genome. He and his students also deciphered many of the complex mechanisms of antibody diversification.

In 1992, with support from Bill Gates, Lee moved to the University of Washington to found the first cross-disciplinary department of biology (Molecular Biotechnology) and continued to pioneer technologies for genomics, proteomics, and cell biology. In 2000, Lee resigned from UW to co-found the Institute for Systems Biology (IBS), which pioneered systems approaches to biology and medicine. Lee served as IBS president from 2000 to 2017.

Currently, Lee is the CEO of Phenome Health, professor at the Institute of Systems Biology in Seattle, and directing the Human Phenome Initiative, a Million Person Project, to bring wellness and prevention to contemporary healthcare. Most recently, Harvard University Press published Lee's new book, The Age of Scientific Wellness.

A world-renowned innovator, Lee has founded or been instrumental in the founding of 17 biotech companies to date including Amgen, Applied Biosystems, Rosetta, and Arivale. His many national and international awards include the 2011 National Medal of Science, the Lasker Prize, and the Kyoto Prize. Lee is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the National Academy of Medicine, one of only 20 people elected to all three academies.

Details for the April 10 program appear below. Please visit to register and submit questions for Lee. This website will catalog all speakers who appear as part of this series and will accept recommendations for future speakers.

I look forward to seeing you there.

Speech: April 10, 2023; 5:00 p.m.
Post-speech reception: 6:00 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.
Location: Beckman Auditorium
Registration, questions, and future speaker recommendations portal: