August 2012

Member update

York named chairman of Vanderbilt’s biochem department
Photo of John YorkJohn York, formerly of Duke University Medical Center, joined Vanderbilt University as chairman of its biochemistry department in July. He succeeded F. Peter Guengerich, who served as interim chairman for the past two years. York’s research focuses on elucidating cellular communication networks required for cellular survival and organismal development and investigating lithium’s role in the treatment of mental illness. He is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator and a fellow of the American Association for the
Advancement of Science.

Dunn wins distinguished university professorship
Photo of Stanley DunnStanley Dunn of the Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry at the University of Western Ontario won a distinguished university professorship award issued by the university this year. Dunn, who has dedicated his research career to the study of ATP synthase, won the award for his scholarly productivity and major service to the university research community. He founded in 2003 and to this day serves as the director of the London Regional Proteomics Centre, which provides faculty members and students access to key instrumentation and services through operation of a set of managed, multiuser instrument facilities. Dunn has been recognized for his work on bioenergetics and bioinformatics many times over. Upon receiving the award, he was lauded for his “unselfish nature, commonsense approach and outstanding critical judgment” by the school’s dean, Michael Strong. Dunn has served on the editorial board of The Journal of Biological Chemistry and as a chairman of the Bioenergetics
Gordon Research Conference.

Kopchick wins Ohio Patent Impact Award
Photo of John KopchickOhio University’s John Kopchick earlier this year won the Ohio Patent Impact Award for his co-discovery of the drug Somavert, a growth hormone receptor antagonist. Somvert is used to treat acromegaly, a syndrome that results when the anterior pituitary gland produces excess growth hormone. The patent award, issued by the Ohio Academy of Science and the Ohio State Bar Association, is reserved for inventors whose work has significantly affected an industry, the economy or medicine. Somavert was discovered in 1987 when Kopchick and his students were trying to come up with a drug to treat children with dwarfism, but instead of developing a compound that would make the patients grow Kopchick’s team found Somavert inhibited growth. Today the drug is licensed by Pfizer Corp., which has yielded the university $73.5 million since the drug was approved in 2003.

Van Andel Institute honors Nobel laureate Sharp
Photo of Phillip A. SharpPhillip A. Sharp of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology was named the first recipient of the Han Mo Koo Memorial Award issued by the Van Andel Institute, a cancer- and Parkinson’s-focused research center in Grand Rapids, Mich. The memorial award was established in the name of an institute co-founder who died at age 40 of a rare and aggressive cancer, NK T-cell lymphoma. “It is fitting that this award, named after a cancer researcher whose promising career was struck down by the disease he studied, is bestowed on a scientist whose breakthrough achievement is vital to understanding the genetic causes of cancer,” said the institute’s chairman and chief executive officer, David Van Andel. Sharp’s research interests have centered on the molecular biology of gene expression relevant to cancer and the mechanisms of RNA splicing, which he discovered in 1977 and for which he shared the 1993 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine.

Mann gains another distinction, this time as alumnus
Photo of Kenneth MannThe University of Iowa earlier this year named Kenneth Mann the winner of one of its 2012 Distinguished Alumni Awards. Mann, today a professor at the University of Vermont and one of the world’s leading experts on blood coagulation, completed his graduate studies at Iowa in the 1960s under Carl Vestling. When he embarked upon his independent career in the 1970s, he fixated on the characterization of the biochemistry of coagulation — then an entirely new line of research. He went on to discover Factor V and shed light on both normal and pathogenic clot formation. Mann’s work has yielded numerous improved pro- and anticoagulant drugs (he and his collaborators have had 22 patents) and promoted advances in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of thrombotic and hemorrhagic diseases. In the past year, Mann has been named a distinguished scientist by the American Heart Association and has been presented a lifetime achievement award by the Hemostasis and Thrombosis Research Society.

Bergen among new fellows elected by ASN
Photo of Werner BergenWerner G. Bergen, a professor at Auburn University’s College of Agriculture, was named this spring one of eight new fellows of the American Society for Nutrition, an honor bestowed in recognition of his outstanding career in nutrition science and the most prestigious acknowledgment offered by the society. Bergen’s lab studies the complexities of regulation of lipid and protein metabolism in agriculturally important animals at the genomic and proteomic levels. He has a particular interest in nutrient-gene interactions and the role of signal-transduction mechanisms in lipid deposition and protein synthesis and turnover. The ASN fellowship program was established in 1962, with only a handful of researchers elected each year.

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