November 2010

ASBMB Member Spotlight


CampbellCampbell Honored with McIntyre Award

Kevin P. Campbell, Roy J. Carver professor of physiology and biophysics and neurology at the University of Iowa Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine, received the A. Ross McIntyre Award from the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

The award, given for contributions to the study of medicine or medical education, is named for A. Ross McIntyre, who was chairman of the University of Nebraska Medical Center department of physiology and pharmacology from 1935 to 1967.

Campbell is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator as well as director of the Wellstone Muscular Dystrophy Cooperative Research Center and chairman of the department of molecular physiology and biophysics at the University of Iowa. His work focuses on dystrophin, a cytoskeletal protein that is absent in the skeletal and cardiac muscle of patients with Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Current projects in his laboratory include investigating the molecular pathogenesis of disorders of the dystrophin-glycoprotein complex, looking at the mechanistic basis of maintaining muscle membrane integrity and investigating the structural basis of dystroglycan function as a basement membrane receptor.


ColemanFriedmanColeman and Friedman Receive Lasker Award

Douglas Coleman and Jeffrey M. Friedman received the 2010 Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award for their discovery of leptin, a hormone that regulates appetite and body weight.

Coleman, an emeritus senior staff scientist at The Jackson Laboratory, established that an appetite-suppressing substance circulates in the bloodstream and signals a second molecule to curb hunger. Friedman, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator and the Marilyn M. Simpson professor and head of the Laboratory of Molecular Genetics at Rockefeller University, isolated the gene that encodes the appetite suppressant and showed that fat cells release it. Their studies and subsequent findings demonstrated that the chemical leptin plays the central role in a self-regulating circuit: As fat accumulates, it exudes leptin, which binds to a receptor in the brain that quells the desire to eat.

Now in its 65th year, the Lasker Award is the nation’s most distinguished honor for outstanding contributions to basic and clinical medical research. As many as 79 Lasker laureates also have received the Nobel Prize, including 30 in the past two decades.

ElginElgin Wins Teaching Award

Sarah C. R. Elgin, the Viktor Hamburger professor in arts and sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, won the 2010 Janet Andersen Lecture Award from the Midstates Consortium for Math and Science for her mentoring of undergraduates. The annual award is named for Janet Andersen, a faculty member in the Hope College mathematics department who served as the Midstates Consortium director for five years before she died in an automobile accident in 2005.

Elgin has been an active proponent of science education at the K-12 level. In the early 1990s, she initiated a science education partnership between Washington University and the public schools in her St. Louis community to implement a novel “hands-on” science curriculum for grades K-8 and to bring hands-on DNA science to the high school genetics curriculum. Elgin also was awarded a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professorship in 2002, which she used to develop a course that couples the expertise of Washington University’s world-renowned Genome Center with the enthusiasm and interest of undergraduates for the field of genomics.

Photograph courtesy of Washington University in St. Louis.


EngelmanLippincott-SchwartzEngelman and Lippincott-Schwartz Named Biophysical Society Fellows

Donald M. Engelman, Eugene Higgins professor of molecular biophysics and biochemistry at Yale University, and Jennifer Lippincott-Schwartz, of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development at the National Institutes of Health, recently were named fellows of the Biophysical Society. Society fellows are chosen based on their demonstrated excellence in science, contributions to the expansion of the field of biophysics and support of the Biophysical Society. The 2011 fellows will be honored at an awards ceremony during the Biophysical Society’s 55th annual meeting this spring.

According to the Biophysical Society, Engelman was selected “for his substantial and highly influential contributions to the field of membrane structure and the interactions of lipid bilayers with proteins,” whereas Lippincott-Schwartz was honored “for her ground-breaking advances in optical highlighter fluorescent protein technology and impact on the field of super-resolution microscopy.”

The Biophysical Society, founded in 1956, is a professional scientific society established to encourage development and dissemination of knowledge in biophysics.


PiomelliPiomelli Garners Award for Innovative Medication Development Research

Daniele Piomelli, Louise Turner Arnold chair in neurosciences and professor of pharmacology at the University of California, Irvine, is the recipient of one of the first-ever National Institute on Drug Abuse Avant-Garde Awards for Innovative Medication Development Research. Piomelli will receive $500,000 per year for five years to support his research.

Piomelli plans to use the award to pursue a medication for smoking cessation using a novel approach of targeting the endogenous cannabinoid system. He will identify and optimize compounds that inhibit an enzyme called fatty acid-amide hydrolase, which degrades the endocannabinoid anandamide. Animal studies have shown that blocking FAAH reduces nicotine self-administration and prevents nicotine-induced reinstatement, a model of relapse.

“Science has clearly shown that drug addiction results from profound disruptions in brain structure and function, presenting numerous potential targets for medications development— yet, few medications have come to fruition,” said NIDA Director Nora D. Volkow. “The array of creative problem-solving approaches submitted by the awardees could help us quicken the pace to find urgently needed medications for addiction.”

Photo credit: University of California, Irvine.


TabakTabak Named Principal Deputy Director at NIH

National Institutes of Health Director Francis S. Collins announced the appointment of Lawrence A. Tabak as principal deputy director of the National Institutes of Health.

Tabak assumes the position held by Raynard Kington, who served as NIH deputy director since 2003, as well as acting NIH director from October 2008 to August 2009. Kington is leaving the NIH to become the president of Grinnell College.

“I am delighted to have Dr. Tabak as deputy director during this critical time for biomedical research,” said Collins. “His outstanding service in numerous activities across the NIH and combination of skills and experience will help the NIH move forward in these revolutionary times for the biomedical sciences.”

Tabak has served as the director of the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research since September 2000. He served as acting NIH deputy director in 2009 and, most recently, as the acting director of the Division of Program Coordination, Planning and Strategic Initiative.

Tabak’s major research focus has been on the biosynthesis and function of mucin-glycoproteins, molecules that are decorated heavily with sugars and help form the coating that protects the delicate inner soft (mucosal) tissues of the body.

van der Donkvan der Donk Receives Knowles Award

Wilfred A. van der Donk, Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator and Richard E. Heckert endowed chairman in chemistry at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, was awarded the 2010 Jeremy Knowles Award from the Royal Society of Chemistry. He received the honor for his interdisciplinary work on the discovery and development of new antibiotics, the mechanism of fatty acid oxidation by cyclo-oxygenase and lipoxygenases and the development of new biocatalysts for use in the pharmaceutical industry.

The award itself consists of 2,000 British pounds and a medal that was presented at van der Donk’s award this past September at the RSC conference in Durham, UK. As part of the award, van der Donk also will be delivering a lectureship at UK universities in March 2011.

van der Donk’s research focuses on using organic chemistry and molecular biology to gain a better understanding of the molecular mechanisms of enzyme catalysis. His group also is exploring the utility of enzymes in organic chemistry. A particular focus has been enzymatic reactions in the biosynthesis of antibiotics, and radical chemistry in proteins such as cyclo-oxygenase and lipoxygenase. His group also has investigated unusual enzymatic reactions involving reduced phosphorus compounds such as phosphite dehydrogenase and 2-hydroxy ethylphosphonate dioxygenase.


WareWare Joins Sanford-Burnham

Carl Ware has been appointed director of the Infectious and Inflammatory Disease Center at Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute. Prior to joining Sanford-Burnham, Ware headed the division of molecular immunology at the La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology.

As director of the center, Ware will oversee the institute’s work on conditions such as HIV, influenza, anthrax, rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, autoimmune disorders and many other conditions. He plans to build the institute’s ability to combat viral diseases and create partnerships with pharmaceutical and biotech companies to find new treatments for immune-based conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and lymphoma.

Ware’s research is directed at understanding the structure-function, signaling pathways and clinical utility of cytokines of the tumor necrosis factor superfamily.

“We are very pleased that Carl has joined us at Sanford-Burnham,” said CEO John Reed, professor and Donald Bren chief executive chair. “His insights into immune signaling and inflammation and his proven track record of translating basic research findings into new treatments will make a significant impact on our work in autoimmune, inflammatory, infectious and other diseases.”

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