Michael Pirrung, PhD

1978 Hertz Fellow
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Michael Pirrung is the Distinguished Professor of Chemistry at the University of California, Riverside, currently investigating organic and peptide synthesis, medicinal chemistry, and bioluminescence.

Michael was trained as a synthetic organic chemist via academic studies at the University of Texas at Austin, the University of California, Berkeley, and Columbia University. His first faculty position was in the chemistry department at Stanford University in the early 1980s.

In the late 1980s, he joined a working group of scientists forming a then-new company, Affymax. He established the chemistry program at Affymax, focusing on new methods of creating chemical diversity. His work there included the co-invention of microarrays, and his Science paper on this work was recognized with the 1991 AAAS-Newcomb Cleveland Prize. It remains in the top 1% of most highly cited papers worldwide. The patent family based on his 1992 microarray patent US 5,143,854 was in the top ten most cited patent families from 1999 to 2004. This patent estate also led to his receiving the 1993 Intellectual Property Owners Distinguished Inventor Award, the 2004 Chemical Pioneer Award of the American Institute of Chemists, the 2006 European Inventor of the Year award, and election as a fellow of the National Academy of Inventors.

He has been a visiting professor at the University of California, Berkeley, Baylor College of Medicine, Oxford University, the University of California, San Diego, the University of California, Irvine, and California Institute of Technology. He has held Hertz, Sloan, and Guggenheim fellowships and a National Science Foundation Presidential Young Investigator Award.

In 1990, Pirrung joined Duke University, where he founded and directed the University Program in Biological Chemistry and Biotechnology for Business, an educational outreach program for non-scientists. In 2004, he joined the chemistry department at the University of California, Riverside, as UC Presidential Chair and in 2012 was named Distinguished Professor.

Michael has more than 180 peer-reviewed publications and more than 40 US and international patents. He has authored six books.

Graduate Studies

University of California, Berkeley
Organic Chemistry
Stereoselective Aldol Condensations and Intramolecular (2+2) Cycloadditions

Undergraduate Studies

University of Texas


2016, Fellow, National Academy of Inventors
2006, European Inventor of the Year
2004, Chemical Pioneer Award, American Institute of Chemists
1995, Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science
1993, Distinguished Inventor Award, Intellectual Property Owners Education Foundation
1985-90, Young Investigator Award, National Science Foundation