December 2010

ASBMB Member Spotlight

ASBMB members in the spotlight this month include Joel S. Bennett, Robert G. Roeder, J. Michael Bishop, Charles J. Epstein, William Ja, Eric M. Verdin, Stephen J. Benkovic, Susan L. Lindquist and Stanley B. Prusiner. Nine ASBMB members also were elected to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies.


Joel S. BennettBennett Awarded Beutler Prize for Translational Research

Joel S. Bennett, professor of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, has been awarded the Ernest T. Beutler Lecture and Prize by the American Society of Hematology. Bennett will share the prize with Barry S. Coller of The Rockefeller University.

According to the ASH, Bennett and Coller were awarded the prize for “enabling advances in basic science as well as in clinical science and translational applications in hematology.” The award is named for the late Ernest Beutler, past president of ASH and physician-scientist for more than 50 years. It is presented to two individuals and is intended to recognize major advances related to a single topic.

Bennett’s research focuses on the structural basis of platelet integrin regulation. He has found that helix-helix interactions involving the transmembrane and membrane-proximal cytoplasmic domain segments play an essential role in regulating the function of both beta 1 and beta 3 integrins. The current focus of his studies is using biophysical and molecular biology techniques to characterize these interactions in detail and employing this information in designing potential antithrombotic agents.

Robert G. RoederRoeder Receives Salk Medal for Research Excellence

Gene expression pioneer Robert G. Roeder, the Arnold and Mabel Beckman professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at The Rockefeller University, is the recipient of the Salk Institute’s Medal for Research Excellence.

“Robert Roeder’s contributions to the understanding of RNA synthesis in animal cells are unparalleled in modern science,” said Salk President William R. Brody in a press release. “The institute’s 50th anniversary is the perfect moment to recognize the extraordinary contributions of our medalists. The Salk Institute medals are a fitting tribute to their ongoing, vital contributions to science and society. And our founder, Jonas Salk, would have been absolutely delighted by the medalist selection.”

Roeder is known for his research on eukaryotic transcriptional regulation. In 1969, he showed RNA polymerases I, II and III directly copy DNA in animal cells. Later, he developed cell-free systems composed of purified RNA polymerases and components extracted from cell nuclei and used these cell-free systems to identify accessory factors essential for the RNA polymerases (e.g., TFIIA, TFIIB, TFIID, etc.) to read target genes. Roeder also was involved in the discovery of coactivators, large protein complexes that provide a bridge between the activators and repressors and the RNA polymerases and other components of the general transcription machinery.

J. Michael BishopBishop Honored with Advocacy Award

J. Michael Bishop, chancellor of the University of California, San Francisco, has been named the recipient of the 2011 Research!America Raymond and Beverly Sackler Award for Sustained National Leadership. Bishop will receive his award at the Research!America Advocacy Awards event this March in Washington, D.C.

The annual Research!America Advocacy Awards program was established in 1996 by the board of directors to honor outstanding advocates for medical, health and scientific research. Recognized individuals and organizations are those whose leadership efforts have been notably effective in advancing our nation’s commitment to research

Bishop is best known for his Nobel Prize-winning research on retroviral oncogenes. Working with Harold E. Varmus, he discovered the first human oncogene, c-Src. These findings allowed the understanding of how malignant tumors are formed from changes to the normal genes of a cell. Bishop shared the 1989 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine with Varmus for this work.

Today, Bishop continues to work on the genetic underpinnings of cancer, using mouse models based on anomalies of proto-oncogenes found in human cancer.

Image courtesy of the University of California, San Francisco.

Charles J. EpsteinEpstein Selected for ASHG Leadership Award

The American Society of Human Genetics’ board of directors has selected Charles J. Epstein, professor emeritus of the department of pediatrics and Institute for Human Genetics at the University of California, San Francisco, as the recipient of its 2010 McKusick Leadership Award.

The award, named in honor of Victor A. McKusick and his contributions to the field of human genetics, is presented to an individual whose professional achievements have fostered and enriched the development of various human genetics disciplines. According to ASHG, recipients of this award must exemplify the enduring leadership and vision required to ensure that the field of human genetics will flourish and assimilate successfully into the broader context of science, medicine and health.

Epstein was selected as this year’s recipient of the McKusick Leadership Award for his exemplary and inspiring contributions to the field of human genetics. In addition to setting up a model medical genetics clinic and enhancing the fields of biochemical and clinical genetics, he helped establish and legitimize the profession of genetic counseling in the late 1970s.

Throughout his career, Epstein also has been a prominent leader in the ASHG community, serving as president of the society and as editor of the American Journal of Human Genetics.

William JaEric M. Verdin Ja and Verdin Receive Biology of Aging Awards

William Ja and Eric M. Verdin have received Glenn Awards for Research in Biological Mechanisms of Aging. The awards, initiated in 2007, provide unsolicited funds to researchers investigating the biology of aging. Award recipients are selected from nominees provided by an anonymous scientific advisory committee.

William Ja, an assistant professor at Scripps Florida, studies longevity-enhancing manipulations and their impact on aging and metabolism in drosophila. Among these manipulations are dietary restriction and the effects on their hosts of certain types of bacteria that live in the gastrointestinal tract.

Eric M. Verdin is a senior investigator at the Gladstone Institute of Virology and Immunology and a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. He looks at the biology of reversible protein acetylation. Specifically, he focuses on the enzymes that remove acetyl groups from proteins, the histone/protein deacetylases. 

Three ASBMB Members Receive National Medal of Science

Stephen J. BenkovicSusan L. LindquistStanley B. Prusiner

Three American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology members were among the 10 researchers named by President Obama as recipients of the National Medal of Science.


The ASBMB members are:

Stephen J. Benkovic, Evan Pugh professor and Eberly chairman in chemistry at The Pennsylvania State University

Susan L. Lindquist, Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator, Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research member and professor of biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Stanley B. Prusiner, professor of neurology and director of the Institute for Neurodegenerative Diseases at the University of California, San Francisco

This is the highest honor bestowed by the United States government on scientists, engineers and inventors. The recipients will receive their awards at a White House ceremony later this year.

The National Medal of Science was created by statute in 1959 and is administered for the White House by the National Science Foundation. Awarded annually, the medal recognizes individuals who have made outstanding contributions to science and engineering. Nominees are selected by a committee of presidential appointees based on their extraordinary knowledge in and contributions to the biological, behavioral/social and physical sciences, as well as chemistry, engineering, computing and mathematics.

Nine ASBMB Members Elected to IOM

Nine members of ASBMB were among the 65 new members and five foreign associates elected to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies. Election to the IOM is considered one of the highest honors in the fields of health and medicine and recognizes individuals who have demonstrated outstanding professional achievement and commitment to service.

The newly elected ASBMB members are:

Sydney Brenner, senior distinguished fellow, Crick-Jacobs Center, Salk Institute for Biological Sciences, La Jolla, Calif.

Riccardo Dalla-Favera, Percy and Joanne Uris professor of clinical medicine, professor of pathology and genetics and development and director, Institute of Cancer Genetics, Columbia University Medical Center, New York City

Titia de Lange, Leon Hess professor, Laboratory of Cell Biology and Genetics, The Rockefeller University, New York City

Jennifer A. Doudna, investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute; and professor, department of molecular and cell biology, University of California, Berkeley

Carol W. Greider, Daniel Nathans professor and director, department of molecular biology and genetics, the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore

Ira H. Pastan, co-chief, laboratory of cell biology, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Md.

Peter J. Polverini, professor and dean, School of Dentistry, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

Kevan M. Shokat, investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute; and professor and chair, department of cellular and molecular pharmacology, University of California, San Francisco

Carl Wu, chief, laboratory of biochemistry and molecular biology, Center for Cancer Research, National Cancer Institute, the National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Md.

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