NAS chemical sciences prize goes to Bertozzi

Bertozzi

Carolyn Bertozzi of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Stanford University won the 2016 National Academy of Sciences Award in Chemical Sciences. Founded in 1978, the award is bestowed annually for pioneering research in the chemical sciences and carries a $15,000 cash prize. In a statement, the NAS said Bertozzi won “for her invention of a new class of chemical reactions, called bio-orthogonal chemistry, that lets scientists label biomolecules within living cells without disrupting any of the biochemical reactions that are naturally occurring there.” Bertozzi’s lab focuses on establishing novel technologies to aid in investigations at the interface of chemistry and biology. She first used bio-orthogonal chemistry to study glycans. Since then, researchers have used it in a variety of ways.


Leahy leaves Hopkins to lead UT–Austin department

Leahy

Dan Leahy, formerly of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, took the helm of the department of molecular biosciences at the University of Texas at Austin in January. Leahy is a structural biologist whose research interests include the molecular mechanisms of cell signaling and members of the epidermal growth factor receptor families. In a statement, Dean Appling, UT’s associate dean for research and facilities, said: “Bringing a first-rate researcher of this caliber to our college is an accomplishment and further enhances UT Austin’s profile in the growing field of structural biology.” UT established the department in 2013 during a reorganization, and it is today home to 64 faculty members with a broad spectrum of research expertise. Leahy replaces Jon Huibregtse, also an ASBMB member, who had served as interim chair.


Pederson gets distinguished service award from ASCB

Pederson

The American Society for Cell Biology recognized Thoru Pederson of the University of Massachusetts Medical School with the society’s Award for Distinguished Service. Pederson has been a member of the ASCB for 50 years. Since joining in 1966, Pederson has held numerous positions for the society, serving as program chair for the 1982 annual meeting, treasurer from 2008 to 2014, and today as chair for the search committee for the next ASCB executive director. During the ceremony, ASCB President Shirley Tilghman revealed that Pederson is “Labby,” the pseudonymous author of a popular career advice column, “Dear Labby,” published in the ASCB Newsletter. Pederson runs a lab that focuses on the functional significance of protein–RNA interactions in eukaryotic gene expression. He previously served as president of the Worcester Foundation for Biomedical Research, and he was appointed editor-in-chief of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology journal in January. Written by Erik Chaulk


Charpentier’s CRISPR work lands her the Leibniz Prize

Charpentier

Emmanuelle Charpentier is one of 10 recipients of this year’s Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize, a prestigious honor established in 1985 by the German Research Foundation. Charpentier was among the first to recognize the bacterial defense system CRISPR’s potential for genome editing. Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna of the University of California, Berkeley, shared the 2015 Breakthrough Prize for their work on CRISPR. Charpentier serves as the director for the Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology in Berlin and as a visiting professor at Umeå University in Sweden. She is a co-founder of CRISPR Therapeutics, a biopharmaceutical startup that plans to harness CRISPR–CAS9 technology for translational applications. CRISPR Therapeutics recently formed a joint venture with Bayer to research and develop treatments for various diseases. The 2016 Leibniz Prizes awards ceremony took place March 1 in Berlin. Written by Alexandra Taylor


In memoriam: Nobel laureate Alfred G. Gilman, 1941 – 2015

Gilman

Alfred G. Gilman, who shared the 1994 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine for the discovery of G proteins, passed away in December at the age of 74. Gilman was born in New Haven, Conn., on July 1, 1941. His father was pharmacologist and chemotherapy pioneer Alfred Z. Gilman. The younger Gilman received his bachelor’s degree from Yale University and a medical degree and doctorate of pharmacology from Case Western Reserve University. He completed postdoctoral training at the Laboratory of Biochemical Genetics at the National Institutes of Health before joining the faculty at the University of Virginia. It was there that in 1977 Gilman discovered G proteins, intermediaries that help relay messages from outside a cell’s walls to actors within. (Gilman won the Nobel along with Martin Rodbell at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.) In 1981, Gilman became chairman of the pharmacology department at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School and later held positions as dean, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs. He won election to the National Academy of Sciences in 1985 and received the Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award in 1989. In 2009, Gilman joined the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas as its chief scientific officer but later resigned over what he perceived to be a focus on commercially marketable research over sound science. Gilman’s colleagues remember him for his integrity and his dedication to scrupulous science. Gilman had been battling pancreatic cancer before his death. He is survived by his wife and three children. Written by Alexandra Taylor