Published December 01 2016

Felsenfeld Felsenfeld

Felsenfeld wins Horwitz Prize

Columbia University announced that its top honor for achievement in biological and biochemical research, the Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize, this year went to Gary Felsenfeld of the National Institutes of Health. Felsenfeld won the recognition along with Howard Cedar and Aharon Razin of the Hebrew University for their work dissecting the molecular mechanisms of regulation of DNA structure and function. These discoveries are central to the understanding of cellular and embryonic development and epigenetic regulation. Felsenfeld showed how DNA and individual histones interact to form complexes. These complexes regulate gene expression either by tightly packing themselves to make the DNA inaccessible or by leaving exposed regulatory regions of the DNA so that other proteins can bind and modulate gene activity.

— By Mariana Figuera

Hunt and Bertozzi receive ACS National Awards

Hunt Bertozzi
Hunt Bertozzi

Donald F. Hunt, professor of chemistry and pathology at the University of Virginia, and Carolyn R. Bertozzi, the Anne T. and Robert M. Bass professor of chemistry and professor of chemical and systems biology and radiology at Stanford University, are two of the American Chemical Society’s 2017 National Award recipients.

Hunt received the ACS Award in Analytical Chemistry, sponsored by the Battelle Memorial Institute. Through his research, Hunt seeks to develop novel methods and instrumentation to identify and characterize the structure of proteins.

Bertozzi received the Arthur C. Cope Award, sponsored by the Arthur C. Cope Fund. Bertozzi’s research lies at the interface between chemistry and biology, with a specific interest in studies on cell-surface glycosylation related to disease states.

The ACS National Awards program recognizes outstanding contributions to chemistry, supports research in chemical science and promotes the careers of influential chemical scientists.

O’Shea O’Shea

O’Shea wins Milstein award

John O’Shea, scientific director at the National Institute of Arthritis, Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, won the Seymour and Vivian Milstein Award for excellence in interferon and cytokine research from the International Cytokine and Interferon Society. The award recognizes scientists who have made significant contributions toward advancing interferon and cytokine research. O’Shea was honored, along with two other recipients, at the annual ICIS annual meeting, held in October.

A leading researcher in the study of cytokines, the society recognized O’Shea for exploring how cytokines “transmit signals to the cell interior of T cells and innate lymphocytes so as to evoke and direct subsequent immune responses,” according to the press release from the society. Insights from O’Shea’s research have led to the development of pharmacological Jak inhibitors as a new class of immunomodulatory drug.

O’Shea previously won the U.S. Public Health Service Physician Researcher of the Year Award and the Paul Bunn Award in infectious disease.

Karbstein Karbstein

Two members named Faculty Scholars

The Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Simons Foundation, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have selected Katrin Karbstein, associate professor at The Scripps Research Institute in Jupiter, Florida, and Agata Smogorzewska, associate professor at The Rockefeller University, as the 2016 Faculty Scholars. Karbstein and Smogorsewska are among the 84 scientists recognized by the organizations as Faculty Scholars this year. The Faculty Scholars Program recognizes early-career scientists who demonstrate the potential greatly to impact their field of study. The program’s sponsors have pledged $83 million over five years to support their awardees’ research.

Karbstein’s research centers on ribosomes, exploring the assembly factors that allow ribosomes to become fully functional. Smogorzewska Smogorzewska She previously received the University of Michigan’s Biological Sciences Scholar award and the National Science Foundation CAREER award.

As head of the Laboratory of Genome Maintenance, Smogorzewska researches the mechanism of DNA interstrand crosslink repair, seeking to understand the cellular and organismal impact of deficiencies in this type of repair. Among her many honors, Smogorsewska has received the Pershing Square Sohn Prize and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation Clinical Scientist Development Award.

Bassler Bassler

Bassler wins Greengard prize

The Rockefeller University has selected Bonnie Bassler as the 2016 recipient of the Pearl Meister Greengard Prize. Founded in 2004 by Nobel laureate Paul Greengard at Rockefeller, the prize recognizes outstanding achievements of women in the science community. The prize carries a $100,000 honorarium.

The Pearl Meister Greengard Prize is another honor for Bassler for her discoveries related to quorum sensing, a process by which bacteria communicate with each other via chemical signaling molecules. She received the Max Planck Research Award for her research earlier this year.

Bassler is the Squibb Professor in molecular biology at Princeton University and an investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

Morrissey Morrissey

Morrissey and Tajkhorshid co-winners of NIH award

James H. Morrissey, the Roy and Eva Hong Professor of molecular and cellular biology, and Emad Tajkhorshid, J. W. Hastings Professor of biochemistry, biophysics and computational biology, at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, are two recipients of a  2016 Transformative Research Award from the National Institutes of Health. Morrissey and Tajkhorshid, along with Chad Rienstra of UIUC, received their award to develop novel methodology to investigate the effect of lipids on membrane protein function at the atomic level.

Established in 2009, the Transformative Research Awards recognize scientists who contribute groundbreaking, interdisciplinary scientific research that shows the potential to create or change fundamental paradigms. Tajkhorshid Tajkhorshid The Transformative Research Awards are part of the High-Risk, High-Reward Research Program, which honors scientists who formulate innovative solutions to challenges in biomedical research.

ASBMB member Morrissey is being recognized for his research on “biochemical mechanisms that regulate the blood clotting system in normal hemostasis and thrombotic disease,” according to the NIH press release. ASBMB member Tajkhorshid’s research explores the structure-function relationship of membrane proteins through simulation and computational methodologies.

Shadel Shadel

Shadel awarded professorship

Gerald Shadel, professor of pathology and genetics and director at the Yale Center for Research on Aging, has been named as the Joseph A. and Lucille K. Madri professor of experimental pathology at Yale University. After serving as an assistant professor of biochemistry at Emory University, Shadel joined the Yale School of Medicine in 2004.

Shadel’s research focuses on the role of mitochondria in disease, aging and the immune system. He and his team have made significant contributions to comprehending mitochondrial gene regulation and mitochondrial DNA metabolism.

The American Society for Investigative Pathology honored Shadel for his research with the Amgen Outstanding Investigator Award from the American Society for Investigative Pathology in 2007 and the Glenn Award for Research in Biological Mechanisms of Aging from the Glen Foundation for Medical Research in 2011.

Dohlman Dohlman

Dohlman named department head

Henrik Dohlman, professor of biochemistry and biophysics at the University of North Carolina, has been named the chair of the department of pharmacology.

As chair, Dohlman will seek to maintain the department as a leader in pharmacological research and education. Gary L. Johnson directed the department for 13 years before stepping down in October 2015.

Dohlman and his team study G proteins and G-protein–coupled receptors. Dohlman previously served on the faculty at Yale University before joining UNC in 2001. Since 2013, Dohlman has served as an associate editor at the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

Collins Collins

Collins and Hurley selected as Bakar Fellows

University of California, Berkeley, professors Kathleen Collins and James Hurley have been selected as 2016–2017 fellows for the Bakar Fellows Program.

The Bakar Fellows Program supports faculty at UC Berkeley who are pursuing innovative scientific research that shows commercial promise. Bakar Fellows receive a discretionary research fund of $75,000 per year for a maximum of five years to fund and help develop groundbreaking scientific research and bring their ideas to market.

The program selected Collins as a fellow for her development of reverse transcriptase technologies. Through her research, Collins has developed new tools that can aid diagnosis in the health care industry. Collins is the Walter and Ruth Schubert Family Chair and professor of biochemistry, biophysics and structural biology in the department of molecular and cell biology. She is also a member of the Berkeley Stem Cell Center.

Hurley Hurley

The program selected Hurley as a fellow for his research on autophagy to combat neurodegeneration. His work shows potential for the development of effective therapies to treat neurodegenerative disease. He is the Judy C. Webb Chair and professor of biochemistry, biophysics and structural biology in the department of molecular and cell biology.

—By Erik Chaulk

Patton Patton

Patton wins funding for neural regeneration work

A team made up of ASBMB member James G. Patton, Edward M. Levine and David J. Calkins from Vanderbilt University School of Medicine has received funding from the National Institutes of Health to study neural regeneration. The three-year project, which is one of the six funded by the NIH in a $12.4-million award, will identify biological factors that affect neural regeneration in the retina. The six projects are part of the National Eye Institute’s Audacious Goal Initiative, which aims to restore vision by regenerating neurons and their connections in the eye and visual system.

The project spearheaded by Patton, Levine and Calkins focuses on the reprogramming of supportive cells in the retina called Muller glia. Their goal is to promote the growth of new photoreceptor cells after retinal injury. The investigators plan to test whether they can reprogram these cells in zebrafish and mice using pharmacological agents and genetic manipulation techniques. They also intend to study the role of exosomes in promoting retinal regeneration.

—By Adriana Bankston