For a guy who spends most of his time in a laboratory at UCSF – the University of California, San Francisco – Joe DeRisi has a pretty high profile.
A few years ago, Esquire magazine described him as a "rock star among
molecular biologists," featuring him as one of their "best and brightest" honorees.
That was after he had won a MacArthur Foundation fellowship. Often called the "genius award." It's given to people who show "extraordinary originality" in their work, no matter what field.
And earlier this month he was named winner of another high-profile honor. The Heinz Family Foundation selected him for their annual technology award. The quarter-million dollar prize was not only for his "pioneering advancements in the laboratory," but also for what they called the "altruistic and caring nature with which he carries on his work." ...
In 2003, when the virus that causes the respiratory disease SARS was identified, it was thanks to a DeRisi innovation known as the ViroChip. ...
Patenting the ViroChip might have made DeRisi a lot of money, but instead it's in the public domain. Likewise, he's published papers in open-access journals, where
you can read them for free on the Internet.
Jonathan Eisen, editor in chief of one of those journals, PLoS Biology, said DeRisi is particularly open about his work.
"What sets Joe DeRisi apart is not just his ability to do really cool science and
really good work, but his passion about making sure those discoveries and tools
are available quickly and broadly to the entire world," Eisen explained.
"And if you want to accelerate the pace of, say, development of new anti-malarial
drugs, which Joe DeRisi is interested in, the best way to do that is to make
sure that all the great scientists around the world have access to the latest
techniques and to the latest knowledge about malaria in order to do their
The open access movement:
Putting peer-reviewed scientific and scholarly literature
on the internet. Making it available free of charge and
free of most copyright and licensing restrictions.
Removing the barriers to serious research.