November 2009


Lindquist Is Oesper Awardee

Susan Lindquist

Susan L. Lindquist, professor of biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is the winner of the 2009 Ralph & Helen Oesper Award for her pioneering work on protein folding.

The Oesper Award, co-sponsored by the Cincinnati section of the American Chemical Society and the University of Cincinnati's department of chemistry, is given annually to a senior, well-established chemist or biochemist with a long record of outstanding scientific achievement. Lindquist received her award during a symposium at the University of Cincinnati in October.

Lindquist, a member of the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator, uses biochemistry and genetics to investigate the mechanisms of protein folding and the consequences of misfolding. Her work has shown how changes in protein conformation affect processes such as stress tolerance, neurodegenerative disease and heredity. Her group has pioneered the use of yeast as a discovery platform for new chemical and genetic therapies for neurological conditions such as Parkinson's and Huntington's diseases.

O'Neill Wins Boyle Medal

Luke O'Neill, a Journal of Biological Chemistry associate editor and professor in the school of biochemistry and immunology at Trinity College Dublin, has won the 2009 Irish Times Boyle Medal for Scientific Excellence. He was given the award for "his pioneering work on the molecular basis of our innate immune system and inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis," according to The Irish Times.

 The Irish Times also stated that the seven people on the international judging panel invited to Dublin to adjudicate the 2009 award were unanimously in agreement that the prize should go to O'Neill. He and three other world-class scientists were shortlisted for the Boyle Medal award last May.

The medal, considered Ireland's premier award for excellence in scientific research, is presented to scientists who have made contributions of global importance to their chosen research fields. O'Neill is the 37th recipient since its inception 110 years ago.

The main focus of O'Neill's work is to provide a molecular understanding of innate immunity and inflammation. He is particularly interested in receptors involved in innate immunity, such as Toll-like receptors and Nod-like receptors, and the signals they activate, including NF-kB, IRF family transcription factors and MAP kinases.

O'Neill also co-founded Opsona Therapeutics, a drug development company.

Shorter Receives New Scholar Award


James Shorter, assistant professor of biochemistry and biophysics at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, is the recipient of a 2009 Ellison Medical Foundation New Scholar Award in Aging. Awardees are nominated by U.S. medical institutions and universities for outstanding promise in aging research. The award provides up to $100,000 per year for a four-year period to a maximum of 25 scholars.

Shorter studies how yeast can be used to look at lethal nerve-degeneration disorders, such as Alzheimer's disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, which are associated with protein aggregation. His major focus is Hsp104, a protein-remodeling factor that disaggregates denatured proteins and returns them to normal function. Shorter is attempting to understand the mechanistic basis of how the Hsp104 structure enables these disaggregation activities and other prion-regulatory functions. He also is trying to identify proteins with similar functions to Hsp104 and is looking at how small molecules disrupt amyloid structure.

Taylor Awarded Vanderbilt Prize

Susan TaylorFormer American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology President Susan S. Taylor has been awarded the 2009 Vanderbilt Prize in Biomedical Science. The award honors women who have "made significant advances in the biological and biomedical sciences and have contributed positively to the mentorship of other women in science." The prize carries a purse of $25,000 and a scholarship in the name of the honoree for a woman entering graduate studies at Vanderbilt University.

Taylor is a professor of chemistry and biochemistry and pharmacology at the University of California, San Diego, a senior fellow at the San Diego Supercomputer Center and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator. Her work focuses on cyclic adenosine monophosphate-dependent protein kinase, or protein kinase A. In 1991, Taylor and colleagues at UCSD solved the three-dimensional crystal structure of the first protein kinase – protein kinase A. The structure continues to serve as a prototype for the entire protein kinase family. In parallel, Taylor solved structures of the protein's regulatory subunits.

Taylor, who was ASBMB president in 1995, also recently received the 2010 Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology Excellence in Science Award.

ASBMB Members Named Biophysical Society Fellows

Clore Ferguson-Miller Wand

ASBMB members G. Marius Clore of the National Institutes of Health, Shelagh Ferguson-Miller of Michigan State University and Andrew Joshua Wand of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine have been named to the 2009 class of Biophysical Society fellows. The award, given to six scientists this year, is designed to recognize distinguished members who have demonstrated excellence in science and have contributed to the expansion of the field of biophysics. The fellows will be honored at a ceremony during the Biophysical Society's annual meeting in February.

According to the Biophysical Society, Clore, who works in the laboratory of chemical physics at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, was selected for "pioneering contributions in the development of nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy for structural characterization of biological macromolecules."

Ferguson-Miller, chairwoman and distinguished professor of biochemistry and molecular biology in East Lansing, Mich., was chosen for "contributions to understanding the structure and function of integral membrane proteins involved in respiratory electron transport, as well as detergent-based methodologies for isolation, purification and crystallization of membrane proteins."

And Wand, the Benjamin Rush professor of biochemistry and biophysics in Philadelphia, was honored "for his numerous advances in the understanding of protein structure, function and dynamics through the application of state-of-the art magnetic resonance methodologies."

Two ASBMB Members Receive National Medals of Science


In September, President Obama named nine eminent researchers, including ASBMB members JoAnne Stubbe and Elaine Fuchs, as recipients of the National Medal of Science, the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. government on scientists, engineers and inventors. The recipients received their awards in a White House ceremony last month.

Stubbe, the Novartis professor of chemistry and a professor of biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was honored "for her groundbreaking experiments establishing the mechanisms of ribonucleotide reductases, polyester synthases and natural product DNA cleavers — compelling demonstrations of the power of chemical investigations to solve problems in biology," according to the National Science Foundation.

Fuchs, Rebecca C. Lancefield professor and head of the laboratory of mammalian cell biology and development at Rockefeller University, was honored "for her pioneering use of cell biology and molecular genetics in mice to understand the basis of inherited diseases in humans and her outstanding contributions to our understanding of the biology of skin and its disorders, including her notable investigations of adult skin stem cells, cancers and genetic syndromes."

The National Medal of Science was created in 1959 and is administered by the NSF. 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 advanced knowledge in, and contributions to, the biological, behavioral/social and physical sciences, as well as chemistry, engineering, computing and mathematics.

Zofia Borowska-Rzucidlo

Zofia Borowska-Rzucidlo, professor emeritus at Rockefeller University and discoverer of edeine, died in June in San Francisco.

Borowska-Rzucidlo was born in Lublin, Poland, on May 13, 1927. She received her master's degree in chemistry in 1950 and her doctoral degree in biochemistry in 1958, both from the Gdańsk University of Technology in Poland. She then became an assistant professor at the Institute of Marine and Tropical Medicine in Gdańsk. In 1961, Borowska-Rzucidlo was awarded a research fellowship from the Rockefeller Foundation and emigrated to the U.S., where she became a guest investigator at the Institute of Microbiology at Rutgers University. A year later, she became a research associate at the McArdle Laboratory for Cancer Research. In 1962, Borowska-Rzucidlo moved again, this time joining the faculty of Rockefeller University, where she remained for the rest of her career, eventually becoming a senior research associate.

Borowska-Rzucidlo's early research in Poland focused on basic peptide antibiotics. After coming to the United States, she continued to work on edeine and amino acids but also expanded the scope of her research to hepatitis C, other viruses as well as the photochemical origins of life. After retiring, Borowska-Rzucidlo spent her time drawing and writing poems in Polish and English under the pen name Sota Kurylo. She eventually published three volumes of poems: "Wyspa Wspomnień" ("The Island of Memories") in 1997, "The Play of Time" in 2001 and "Jeszcze siç wznoszç" ("I Am Still Ascending") in 2004. She also published numerous poems in journals and anthologies.

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