Member Update


Helen Hobbs wins Breakthrough Prize

Helen Hobbs, a professor of internal medicine and molecular genetics at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas and an investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, has been awarded the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences for her innovative contributions to the field of genetics.

A set of international awards recognizing outstanding achievements in the life sciences, fundamental physics and mathematics, the $3 million Breakthrough Prizes were founded by prominent innovators in the fields of science and technology, including Google co-founder Sergey Brin, 23andMe founder Anne Wojcicki, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan, Alibaba founder Jack Ma and his wife Cathy Zhang, and entrepreneur Yuri Milner and his wife Julia Milner. The prizes are awarded at a celebrity-hosted, televised ceremony designed to promote science and inspire future innovators.

Hobbs holds the Eugene McDermott distinguished chair for the study of human growth and development; the Philip O’Bryan Montgomery Jr., M.D., distinguished chair in developmental biology; and the 1995 Dallas Heart Ball chair in cardiology research at the University of Texas Southwestern at Dallas. Since 1999, she has directed the Dallas Heart Study, a multiethnic, population-based study in Dallas County designed to aid in the understanding of cardiovascular disease.

Hobbs, in conjunction with her scientific collaborator Jonathan Cohen, helped develop new methods for the treatment of heart and liver disease by identifying genes involved in lipid metabolism and fatty liver disease. She identified rare genetic variations that change the levels and distribution of cholesterol and other lipids in the body, leading to the development of cholesterol-lowering drugs that won U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval this summer.

Among her many accolades, Hobbs has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the National Academy of Medicine.


Peter Lobel honored with Innovators Award and Edison Patent Award

Peter Lobel, a member of Rutgers University's Center for Advanced Biotechnology and Medicine and a professor in the department of biochemistry and molecular biology at Rutgers’ Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, won a 2015 Innovators Award from the New Jersey Inventors Hall of Fame. Lobel and Rutgers associate professor David Sleat were recognized for discovering the cause of Batten disease and for providing groundwork for treatment of the disease. Also known as late infantile neuronal ceroid lipofuscinoses, or LINCL, Batten disease is an inherited disorder of the nervous system that usually begins in early childhood and can cause loss of vision, recurrent seizures and motor problems. Sufferers ultimately become physically and mentally incapacitated before premature death in late childhood.

Batten disease is caused by mutations in the CLN2 gene and protein tripeptidyl peptidase I, or TPP1. Lobel and Sleat have developed a treatment method that involves administering TPP1 in an amount effective to reduce symptoms. Previously, patients’ symptoms have been managed only by anti-epileptic drugs and physical, speech and occupational therapies. Initial clinical evaluation of a TTP1-based treatment shows a delay in the disease’s progression.

Lobel and Sleat’s treatment method is also being recognized with a 2015 biopharmaceutical Edison Patent Award from the Research and Development Council of New Jersey. The award recognizes scientists and inventors who do outstanding research and development work in the state.


Hanawalt and Pollard receive Wilbur Cross Medals

Yale University alumni Philip C. Hanawalt and Thomas Pollard are being honored by the Yale Graduate School of Arts and Sciences with Wilbur Cross Medals. Named in honor of Wilbur Lucius Cross, former dean of the Yale Graduate School and governor of the state of Connecticut, the medal recognizes the outstanding achievements of alumni in scholarship, teaching, academic administration and public service.

Hanawalt is the Morris Herzstein professor in biology at Stanford University. A pioneer in the field of DNA repair, he discovered the process of repair replication in DNA in 1963 and subsequently helped develop novel techniques for studying DNA repair. In addition to his research accomplishments, Hanawalt is a celebrated educator and recipient of the Excellence in Teaching Award from the Northern California Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa. He is also a member of the National Academy of Sciences and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.


Pollard is the Sterling professor of molecular, cellular and developmental biology at Yale. An honorary recipient of the Wilbur Cross Medal, Pollard is being recognized for his service to the Yale Graduate School. He served as dean of the graduate school from 2010 to 2014 and is celebrated for his efforts to develop mentoring strategies and other initiatives for students. Pollard also maintains an active lab group, which explores the molecular basis of cellular motility and cytokinesis. He has pioneered investigations into the actin cytoskeleton, which accounts for structure and movement in all cells. Pollard received a Gairdner International Award in 2006.


John Schell is a Young Scientist Seminar Series winner

John Schell, an M.D./Ph.D. candidate in the lab of Jared Rutter at the University of Utah, is one of five winners of iBiology’s Young Scientist Seminar Series. A vehicle for young scientists, Ph.D. candidates or postdocs to promote their research to a wider audience, the series competition provides winners an all-expense-paid trip to San Francisco, where they take part in a science communication workshop and record 30-minute research talks that are posted and advertised on the iBiology website.

Supported by the Lasker Foundation and the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science, the Young Scientist Seminar Series helps young biologists hone their message, improve communication skills and showcase their work on a larger stage.

Schell is working on cellular metabolic homeostasis and, along with Rutter, helped identify the mitochondrial pyruvate carrier, a gene that plays an important role in cellular metabolism. In his video for the Young Scientist Seminar Series, he examined how defects of the mitochondria affect human metabolic function.

Written by Erik Chaulk

Five ASBMB members elected to NAM

Evan Dale Abel Mario R. Capecchi Christopher K. Glass Kenneth S. Ramos Kevin Struhl

Five members of ASBMB were among the 70 new members and 10 foreign associates elected to the National Academy of Medicine. Election to the NAM is considered one of the highest honors in the fields of health and medicine and recognizes individuals who have demonstrated outstanding professional achievement and commitment to service.

Below are the newly elected ASBMB members:

Evan Dale Abel, John B. Stokes chair in diabetes research, and director, Fraternal Order of Eagles Diabetes Research Center, Carver College of Medicine, University of Iowa

Mario R. Capecchi, distinguished professor, department of human genetics and biology, University of Utah School of Medicine

Christopher K. Glass, professor of cellular and molecular medicine, professor of medicine, and Ben and Wanda Hildyard chair in hereditary diseases, University of California, San Diego

Kenneth S. Ramos, associate vice president for precision health sciences and professor of medicine, division of pulmonary, allergy, critical care and sleep medicine, University of Arizona Health Sciences Center

Kevil Struhl, David Wesley Gaiser professor of biological chemistry and molecular pharmacology, Harvard Medical School

Written by Alexandra Taylor