July 2011

Member Update

ASBMB members in the news this month include Juan S. Bonifacino, Titia de Lange, Yibin Kang, Phoebe Leboy, Yosef Shiloh, Stephen T. Warren, Meir Wilchek, Michelle Williams, Helen M. Blau, Philip C. Hanawalt and Carol L. Prives. 


Bonifacino elected PABMB vice chairman

Juan S. Bonifacino recently was elected vice chairman of the Panamerican Association for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. PABMB aims to foster and support the growth and advancement of biochemistry and molecular biology within the Americas. The association disseminates information relating to biochemistry and molecular biology education, sponsors meetings and courses, and facilitates the exchange of faculty and students between institutions engaged in research and training.

Bonifacino received his doctorate in biochemistry from the University of Buenos Aires and moved to the National Institutes of Health to do a postdoctoral fellowship. He later became chief of the Cell Biology and Metabolism Branch.

Bonifacino’s research looks at the molecular mechanisms that determine protein localization and fate in the secretory and endocytic pathways and diseases that result from dysfunction of these mechanisms. In particular, he has conducted research on signals and adaptor proteins that mediate protein sorting in the endosomal-lysosomal system.


De Lange and Kang receive Vilcek Prizes in Biomedical Science 

Titia de Lange Yibin Kang

The Vilcek Foundation recently announced the 2011 winners of its annual prizes honoring the contributions of foreign-born scientists and artists.

The sixth annual Vilcek Prize for Biomedical Science, given in recognition of a sustained record of innovation and achievement, was awarded to Dutch-born Titia de Lange, the Leon Hess professor and head of the laboratory of cell biology and genetics at Rockefeller University. De Lange received the award for her research on mechanisms that help maintain genome stability. Her work has led to a greater understanding of how telomeres protect chromosome ends and what happens when telomere function is lost during the early stages of tumorigenesis.

The Vilcek Foundation also presented Yibin Kang with its 2011 Vilcek Prize for Creative Promise in Biomedical Science. The prize recognizes foreign-born scientists and artists not more than 38 years old who have made outstanding contributions in the early stages of their professional careers. Currently an associate professor of molecular biology at Princeton University, Kang’s research contributes to the general understanding of the molecular basis of cancer metastasis. His work focuses on the identification of genes and pathways that control metastasis and their role in the propensity of cancer cells to metastasize to different organs.


Leboy selected as AWIS fellow 

The Association for Women in Science announced the selection of Phoebe Leboy as a 2010 AWIS Fellow at its 40th Anniversary and Fellows Reception held in conjunction with the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science this past spring.

In her presentation, AWIS President Joan Herbers noted: “We are honoring Phoebe Leboy for her excellent and long-term efforts in furthering the mission of AWIS through her work as a faculty member at the University of Pennsylvania and her selfless service as a member of the board and president of AWIS. For 40 years, she has highlighted inequities faced by women in the STEM disciplines and worked diligently and successfully to reduce them.”

Leboy is a professor of biochemistry emerita at the University of Pennsylvania. Her laboratory studies changes in gene expression associated with the formation and maintenance of skeletal tissue.


Shiloh receives Clowes Memorial Award and Israel Prize 

Photo credit: American Friends of Tel Aviv University.

Yosef Shiloh, a David and Inez Myers professor in cancer research at Tel Aviv University’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine, was selected to receive the 2011 Israel Prize, Israel’s most distinguished national honor. The prize is awarded by the Israeli Ministry of Education to Israeli citizens who have demonstrated excellence in their chosen profession.

Earlier this year Shiloh was the first Israeli to receive the 51st annual G.H.A. Clowes Award from the American Association for Cancer Research. He was honored for his studies on the cellular DNA damage response and the rare genomic instability syndrome ataxia-telangiectasia.

Shiloh has been investigating ataxia-telangiectasia and the defect in the DNA damage response that leads to this disease for more than 30 years. He revolutionized the field when his lab identified the ataxia-telangiectasia gene in 1995 and successfully cloned it, calling it ataxia-telangiectasia mutated. The identification of the ATM gene opened many new avenues of inquiry and allowed research to race forward. Since then, the Shiloh laboratory has expanded its studies to the mode of action of the ATM gene product – the ATM protein kinase – and the extensive signaling network that it activates in response to DNA damage.


Warren honored by March of Dimes

Photo credit: Emory University

Stephen T. Warren, the William Patterson Timmie professor of human genetics and Charles Howard Candler chairman of the department of human genetics as well as professor of biochemistry and pediatrics at Emory University School of Medicine, will receive the March of Dimes/Colonel Harland Sanders Award for Lifetime Achievement in the field of genetic sciences.

Established in 1986, the March of Dimes/Colonel Harland Sanders Award is given annually to an individual whose lifetime body of research and education has made a significant contribution to the genetic sciences.

Warren is a world-renowned researcher who identified the long-sought genetic abnormality responsible fragile X syndrome. This disorder is an inherited genetic condition that involves changes in the X chromosome and specifically the FMR1 gene. It is the leading cause of inherited intellectual disability.  


Wilchek awarded Israel Chemical Society medal 

Meir Wilchek, a professor at the Weizmann Institute of Science, was awarded the Israel Chemical Society Medal. He shares the award, which is the society’s highest honor, with Eli Hurvitz, an industrialist who transformed Teva into Israel’s largest company and a world leader in producing generic drugs.

Wilchek is best known for developing the modern concept of affinity between biological molecules. In 1968 he and his colleagues created a method for affinity chromatography, which revolutionized the isolation of biochemical materials and opened the door to new opportunities in biology, biotechnology, chemistry, nanotechnology, physics and many other fields. This method has contributed to many developments in the life sciences and medicine.


Williams honored with Presidential Award 

Photo credit: Mary Levin

President Obama has named Michelle Williams, University of Washington professor of epidemiology and global health in the School of Public Health, as one of the nation’s outstanding mentors in science, math and engineering.

Williams, an expert in maternal and infant health, was among 11 individuals and four organizations selected as recipients of the prestigious Presidential Awards for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring. The awards are given by the White House each year to individuals or organizations to recognize the crucial role that mentoring plays in the academic and personal development of students studying science or engineering, particularly those who belong to groups that are underrepresented in those fields.

Williams is director of the UW’s Multidisciplinary International Research Training Program and director of the Reproductive Pediatric and Prenatal Epidemiology Training Program at the UW. She also is co-director of the Center for Prenatal Studies at Swedish Medical Center in Seattle and an affiliate investigator at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle.


Three ASBMB members honored for cancer research 

The American Association for Cancer Research has recognized three American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology members whose work has significantly contributed to progress in the fight against cancer.

Helen M. Blau

Helen M. Blau was awarded the Seventh Annual AACR-Irving Weinstein Foundation Distinguished Lectureship. Blau is the Donald E. and Delia B. Baxter professor and director of the Baxter Laboratory for Stem Cell Biology in the microbiology and immunology department at the Stanford Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine at the Stanford University School of Medicine. She is known for her research on cellular reprogramming, regulation of cell fate and skeletal muscle regeneration, and stem cell biology. By perturbing the intracellular or extracellular milieu, she can probe the regulatory network that determines cell fate and how it can be altered.

Philip C. Hanawalt

Philip C. Hanawalt, the Morris Herzstein professor of biology at Stanford University and a pioneer in the field of DNA repair, received the Fifth Annual AACR Princess Takamatsu Memorial Lectureship for international collaboration. In 1963, Hanawalt and his student David Pettijohn first reported DNA repair replication in E. coli. That observation, along with findings from the groups of Richard Setlow and Paul Howard-Flanders, constituted the discovery of the excision repair of damaged DNA, launching a new biological field that continues to grow and provide remarkable insights into the etiology of cancer, aging and human hereditary disease.

Carol L. Prives

Carol L. Prives, the Da Costa professor of biology at Columbia University, was awarded the 14th Annual AACR-Women in Cancer Research Charlotte Friend Memorial Lectureship for her exceptional contributions to our understanding of the regulation and function of p53 as a major tumor suppressor. Prives was among the first to make the critical discovery that p53 is a sequence-specific DNA binding protein that functions as a transcription factor. This laid the groundwork for unraveling how p53 works.

Photos copyright 2011 AACR. 

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