August 2011

Tabor Award: Inaugural winners named

Doctoral candidate Erin Greiner received her award at the Gordon Research Conference: CAG Triplet Repeat Disorders, which was held June 5 – 10 in Italy and attended by Journal of Biological Chemistry Associate Editor Joel Gottesfeld. Photo: Jeff Cantle.

UCLA student takes aim at Huntington’s

Erin Greiner, a doctoral candidate in the department of chemistry and biochemistry at the University of California, Los Angeles, was named the first recipient of the Herbert Tabor/Journal of Biological Chemistry Young Investigator Award.

Greiner’s research focuses on the function and mechanism of the huntingtin protein, the causal protein in Huntington’s disease. She uses spatiotemporal-proteomic and systems-biology approaches to profile full-length Htt-interacting proteins from HD and wild-type mice to uncover novel protein networks and potential therapeutic targets in the mammalian brain.

Greiner, a Grand Rapids, Mich., native, is co-mentored by Joseph A. Loo of UCLA’s department of chemistry and biochemistry and X. William Yang of its department of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences. Greiner completed her undergraduate work at The College of Wooster in Ohio.

UMass student is pursuing anti-hepatitis C therapies

M.D./Ph.D. candidate Keith Romano received his award at the 25th annual symposium of the Protein Society, which was held July 23-27 in Boston and attended by JBC Associate Editor Norma Allewell. Photo courtesy of Brendan Hilbert.

K eith Romano was named an award series winner for his promising work with hepatitis C virus at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

Raised in Sturbridge, Mass., Romano followed in the footsteps of his parents, who both worked in science and medicine. He completed his undergraduate degree at Colby College in Waterville, Maine, and now is pursuing an M.D./Ph.D. at UMass. For the past five years, he has worked with Celia Schiffer in the department of biochemistry and molecular pharmacology.

Romano’s research aims to overcome HCV protease inhibitor resistance. He has determined high-resolution crystal structures of the NS3/4A protease in complex with viral substrates and drugs synthesized by his team’s medicinal chemist, Akbar Ali. This work has led to a better understanding the molecular basis of drug resistance against four leading HCV protease inhibitors— telaprevir, danoprevir, vaniprevir and MK-5172.

“I hope that these findings facilitate the more rational evaluation of novel drug candidates,” Romano says, “and provide a direct path for designing more efficacious and tolerable anti-HCV therapies.”

Postdoc is recognized for her work with cytochrome P450

Sarah Barry received her award at the 17th International Symposia on Cytochrome P450, which was held June 26-30 in Manchester, U.K., and attended by JBC Associate Editor F. Peter Guengerich. Photo courtesy of Brian Fleming.

S arah Barry, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Warwick in the U.K., received the award for her investigations into cytochrome P450 enzymes.

A native of Dublin, Barry earned her bachelor and doctoral degrees in chemistry at University College Dublin, where she studied the development of small molecule enzyme mimics with Peter Rutledge. Barry is currently sponsored by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, and she is working under the direction of professor Greg Challis while investigating the biosynthesis of the phytotoxin thaxtomin A, a key virulence factor produced by the plant pathogenic bacterium Streptomyces scabies.

With collaborators from Cornell University and the University of Manchester, Barry has been pursuing the function and mechanisms of the cytochrome P450 enzymes that are involved in the biosynthesis of the phytotoxin. Thus far, she says, they have found that one P450 enzyme “is capable of direct nitration, which is an unprecedented activity for a cytochrome P450.” Barry emphasizes: “This research is highly interdisciplinary, encompassing organic, inorganic analytical and biological chemistry as well as molecular genetics.”

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