David Baker

University of Washington and Howard Hughes Medical Institute

2021 Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences

For developing a technology that allowed the design of proteins never seen before in nature, including novel proteins that have the potential for therapeutic intervention in human diseases.


This prize celebrates the accomplishments of the extraordinarily talented graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and staff I have been most fortunate to work with at the University of Washington and the Institute for Protein Design, and more broadly the collaborative achievements of the RosettaCommons which now spans 80 institutions. It also highlights the unpredictability of scientific progress and how apparently quite esoteric basic research can have real world impact in the not too distant future. When I started out at the UW working on basic mechanisms of protein folding I had no idea that my group some years later would be using computers to design a new world of functional proteins to address current challenges including some that are now being tested as medicines in people. I also could not conceive that we and our colleagues would be designing therapeutics, diagnostics and vaccines to combat a pandemic. I thank all the amazing people who have been involved in this very collaborative work, the many contributors to Rosetta@home and FoldIT, the philanthropic organizations that have supported much of our research, and my parents, wife and children for their love and support.

David Baker