Published November 01 2016

ASBMB members win Lasker awards

Rice Bartenschlager Semenza Alberts
Rice Bartenschlager Semenza Alberts

In September, the Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation announced the recipients of the 2016 Lasker Awards. This year’s awards recognize six researchers who made outstanding contributions to physiology and virology, as well as one scientist who helped pioneer the fields of DNA replication and science education. Among the recipients for the awards were four members of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.

ASBMB members Charles M. Rice of Rockefeller University and Ralf F. W. Bartenschlager of Heidelberg University received with The Lasker–DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award for growing the hepatitis C virus in cultured cells. Michael K. Sofia of Arbutus Biopharma shared the prize with Rice and Bartenschlager for utilizing this system to test and invent candidate drugs, which culminated in the development of the hepatitis-C drug Sovaldi.

Gregg L. Semenza of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, an ASBMB member, was one of the recipients of the Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award. Semenza won the award along with William G. Kaelin Jr. of the Dana–Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School and Peter J. Ratcliffe from the University of Oxford and Francis Crick Institute. The three physician-scientists received the award for their role in discovering the pathway that eukaryotic cells use to adapt to and sense changes in oxygen availability. Kaelin is organizing a scientific symposium about the pathway at the annual meeting in April at which Ratcliffe will speak.

ASBMB member Bruce M. Alberts at the University of California, San Francisco, received the Lasker–Koshland Special Achievement Award in Medical Science. In addition to devising tools for understanding the mechanisms cells use to copy DNA, Alberts has used his clout as a scientist and a president of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences to improve science education.

Written by John Arnst

Bassler Bassler

Bassler wins research award

The Alexander von Humboldt Foundation and the Max Planck Society have named Bonnie Bassler, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator at Princeton University, one of two recipients of the Max Planck Research Award.

Bassler is being honored for her role in discovering that bacteria communicate with one another through chemical signaling molecules, a process known as quorum sensing. Her discovery shows the potential for application to a wide variety of fields including medicine, agriculture and industry.

Since 2004, the Max Planck Research Award has recognized two internationally renowned scientists, one who works in Germany and another who works abroad, who contribute groundbreaking research. The award, presented annually on an alternating basis within the areas of natural sciences, engineering, life sciences and the humanities, carries a prize of about $840,000 to support future research.

Harrison Harrison

Harrison wins Vallee Foundation award

Melissa Harrison, an assistant professor in the department of biomolecular chemistry at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, is one of the recipients of the 2016 Young Investigator Awards from the Vallee Foundation.

Harrison’s research explores the factors that drive transcriptional activation of the zygotic genome. Her work focuses on exploring the fundamental molecular mechanisms by which the embryonic genome is remodeled rapidly to create the pluripotent state.

Awarded by the Vallee Foundation, the Young Investigator Awards recognize independent investigators who have conducted significant research early in their scientific careers. The award provides recipients with $250,000 in discretionary funding to be used for biomedical research.

Written by Erik Chaulk

Schepartz Schepartz

Schepartz is new chief editor of Biochemistry

Alanna Schepartz, a professor of chemistry and molecular, cellular and developmental biology at Yale University, is the new editor-in-chief of Biochemistry, a peer-reviewed journal published by the American Chemical Society. She took the helm in August. Schepartz’s research covers biochemistry, cell biology and chemical biology with a focus on macromolecular interactions. “With her broad knowledge of biochemical research, extensive relationships in the community, and outstanding editorial experience, I am confident that the journal will excel under her leadership and remain one of the most-cited titles in the field,” said James Milne, senior vice president of ACS Journals Publishing Group in a press release that announced Schepartz’s appointment.

Written by Kamalika Saha

Forsdyke Forsdyke

Forsdyke releases third edition of textbook

The third edition of Donald Forsdyke’s book “ Evolutionary Bioinformatics” is available. Originally published in 2006, the book has been supplemented with more online material in this third edition.

Books on bioinformatics traditionally deal with topics such as gene discovery and database searching. In “Evolutionary Bioinformatics,” Forsdyke explores “new bioinformatics,” considering genomes as information channels through which multiple forms of information have passed through the generations.

Forsdyke is professor emeritus of biochemistry at Queen’s University in Canada. He has published more than 200 papers as well as several books.

Mandl Mandl

In memoriam: Ines Mandl

Ines Mandl, professor of biochemistry at Columbia University, passed away Aug 5. She was 99.

Born Ines Hochmuth in Vienna on April 19, 1917, she married Hans Mandl at the age of 19. When Germany invaded Austria in 1938, the two fled and eventually settled in Cork, Ireland, for the duration of World War II. While in Ireland, Ines Mandl became interested in science, studying chemistry at the University of Cork.

After the war, Mandl and her husband moved to America, where she obtained her master’s degree in 1947 and her Ph.D. in chemistry in 1949 from the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn. Mandl subsequently joined Columbia University as a chemist and research associate before becoming a full professor.

In 1972, she founded the journal Connective Tissue Research, for which she served as editor-in-chief until her retirement in 1986.

Regarded as a leading expert in the study of enzymes and elastic tissue, Mandl received numerous honors throughout her career, including the Carl Neuberg Medal and the Garvan Medal.

In 2000, Mandl helped establish the Ines Mandl Research Foundation as a means of supporting students studying chemical engineering or biomedical or biological sciences. The foundation serves as a legacy of Mandl’s profound impact on the scientific industry.

Written by Erik Chaulk