December 2009

Kinase Researcher Named Recipient of FASEB Award


Susan S. Taylor, professor of chemistry and biochemistry, professor of pharmacology and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator at the University of California, San Diego, has been named the recipient of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology 2010 Excellence in Science Award. The award recognizes women whose outstanding career achievements in biological science have contributed significantly to furthering our understanding of a particular discipline by excellence in research.Susan Taylor

“I am honored that Dr. Susan Taylor has been selected to receive the 2010 Excellence in Science Award during my term as FASEB president,” said Mark O. Lively. “Dr. Taylor is an outstanding biochemist and structural biologist whose laboratory has made fundamental contributions to the understanding of cellular regulation by protein phosphorylation. Just as the cAMP-dependent protein kinase that she studies is the prototype of this critically important family of enzymes, Dr. Taylor is an exemplar for the truly meritorious women scientists whose career achievements are celebrated by the Excellence in Science Award.”

Taylor, one of more than 50 women nominated for the prestigious award, will receive an unrestricted research grant of $10,000 sponsored by Eli Lilly and Co. She will also give a talk titled “Dynamics of PKA Signaling” at 2:15 p.m. Tuesday, April 27, at the 2010 annual meeting in Anaheim, Calif.

Taylor, who received her Bachelor of Arts in chemistry from the University of Wisconsin and her doctorate in physiological chemistry from the Johns Hopkins University, is regarded by many as the world’s foremost expert on cAMP-dependent protein kinase (PKA), the archetype for all the protein kinases and one of the most important regulatory molecules in a cell.

Taylor was first introduced to PKA by a colleague at UCSD, shortly after she started her own lab in 1972 after postdoctoral studies at the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, England (1969-1970) and UCSD (1971-1972). Taylor’s extraordinary work has led to identification of functional residues important for catalysis and subunit interaction and has provided critical insight related to cAMP binding.



In 1991, Taylor and her colleagues at UCSD determined the three-dimensional structure of the catalytic subunit of protein kinase A— the first crystal structure solved for any protein kinase. Even today, the structure continues to serve as a prototype for the entire protein kinase family. In subsequent years, Taylor has solved the structures of the protein’s regulatory subunits, as well as the structure of the entire multisubunit PKA complex, which provides insights into cAMP activation and PKA cooperativity.

“[Susan Taylor’s] structure of protein kinase A changed the way we think about kinases,” said Jack Dixon, a professor at the University of California, San Diego, and vice president and chief scientific officer of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. “These enzymes have become important drug targets for cancer and other diseases, and Susan’s thoughtful insights into their structure and function have led the field for many years.”

More recently, Taylor has been addressing other PKA-related topics such as identifying its subcellular location, in collaboration with Roger Y. Tsien, and examining how the scaffold proteins DAKAP-1 and -2 bring together PKA and its substrates.

Taylor has received numerous awards for her studies, including the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology’s William C. Rose Award, the Wyeth Research Chemistry Award, the American Chemical Society’s Garvin-Olin Medal and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers’ Forefronts of Large Scale Computation Award. She was elected to the American Academy of Art and Sciences in 1992 and to both the Institute of Medicine and the National Academy of Sciences in 1997. Taylor also served as ASBMB president in 1995.

Angela Hopp ( is managing editor for special projects at ASBMB. Nick Zagorski ( is a science writer at ASBMB.

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