December 2010

Yusuf Hannun Receives Avanti Award in Lipids

Yusuf Hannun, professor and department chairman at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, S.C., is the winner of the 2010 ASBMB-Avanti Award in Lipids. (Titled "Yusuf Hannun Wins Award for Pioneering Work with Bioactive Sphingolipids" in print version.)

Yusuf Hannun

"This is a great honor and privilege, and I thank my many colleagues for their nomination and support. Work on sphingolipids has represented a long and highly rewarding journey. I am also gratified that the field of sphingolipids is coming into its own with increasing recognition of its significance not only in the world of lipids but also in overall biochemistry and cell biology." - YUSUF HANNUN

The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology has named Yusuf Hannun, professor and department chairman at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, S.C., the winner of the 2010 Avanti Award in Lipids.

The award recognizes Hannun’s work on bioactive sphingolipids, a class of lipids that have emerged as critical regulators of a multitude of cell functions and, when defective, can cause disorders with significant medical effects.

“For more than a century, sphingolipids were an obscure class of molecules whose metabolism and functions were poorly characterized,” explained Robert C. Dickson of the University of Kentucky College of Medicine, who nominated Hannun for the award. “Indeed, their very name derives from the Greek sphinx, because they presented an enigma to their discoverer, Johann Thudicum. Dr. Hannun’s work has pioneered the way in deciphering this enigma by establishing the field of bioactive sphingolipids.”

Those supporting Hannun’s nomination described his team’s approach as a rigorous and concerted one that combines chemistry, biochemistry, cell and molecular biology and yeast genetics to unravel the sphingolipid mystery.

Hannun, author of hundreds of peer-reviewed publications during the past few decades, including 133 publications in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, also was lauded for being a tireless mentor. Indeed, one of his past trainees, Charles Chalfant, is the recipient of the 2011 ASBMB Avanti Young Investigator Award.

About the Award

The Avanti Award in Lipids recognizes outstanding research contributions in the area of lipids. The award consists of a plaque, $3,000 and travel expenses for the recipient to present a lecture at the ASBMB annual meeting. Hannun will give his award lecture, titled “Network of Bioactive Sphingolipids,” at 8:30 a.m. on April 11, at the 2011 annual meeting in Washington, D.C.

You can view award presentations from the 2010 ASBMB annual meeting in our archive.

“The research group that he founded at the Medical University of South Carolina is now one of the best-funded lipid research groups in the U.S. Indeed, the cadre of young scientists he recruited is developing into one of the leading lipid research groups in the world,” said Christopher R. McMaster of Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, Canada.

Hannun earned his bachelor’s and medical degrees from American University of Beirut, Lebanon, in 1977 and 1981, respectively. He spent nearly two decades working in multiple capacities at Duke University and its medical center. Today, he is the Ralph F. Hirschmann professor, chairman of the department of biochemistry and molecular biology and deputy director of MUSC’s Hollings Cancer Center. He has edited seven books and published five patents.

“Dr. Hannun is a friendly person who cares about relationships in science and is willing to help the careers of others,” said George Carman, director of the Rutgers Center for Lipid Research and associate editor for the JBC.

Please feel free to send a congratulatory email to Yusuf Hannun or leave him a note in the comment space below.

Angela Hopp ( is managing editor for special projects at ASBMB.

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