August 2013

Member update

Baumann, Lima become HHMI investigators
Peter BaumannChristopher LimaTwo ASBMB members were among the 27 researchers named Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigators this summer. Peter Baumann of the Stowers Institute for Medical Research studies various aspects of chromosome biology, including telomere maintenance, as well as reproduction in unisexual vertebrates. Christopher D. Lima of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center is a structural biologist studying macromolecules involved in post-translational modification by ubiquitinlike proteins and the pathways contributing to RNA maturation and RNA decay. As HHMI investigators, Baumann and Lima will be paid their full salaries (plus benefits) and be given research budgets for five years.
Rockefeller’s Young named Shaw laureate
Michael YoungASBMB member Michael W. Young, a professor and the vice president for academic affairs at The Rockefeller University, was named one of the winners of the 2013 Shaw Prize in Life Sciences and Medicine. The announcement made earlier this summer in Hong Kong recognized Young’s work on circadian rhythms in collaboration with Jeffrey C. Hall of the University of Maine and Michael Rosbash of Brandeis University. The annual prize, now in its 10th year, is worth $1 million, and the three winners will split it. A ceremony will be conducted in September.
Davis named founding faculty for Quinnipiac med school
J. Nathan Davis J. Nathan Davis, an associate professor of medical sciences at Quinnipiac University, has been named one of the founding faculty members of the university’s Frank H. Netter M.D. School of Medicine. The medical school, located in the Center for Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences on Quinnipiac’s North Haven Campus, will open its doors to its first 60 students this month. Davis, formerly of the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center Medical School, will teach biochemistry. “I am very pleased to have Nathan as a member of our founding faculty,” said Bruce Koeppen, the school’s founding dean. “He brings to the School of Medicine extensive expertise related to tumor biology, cell biology and biochemistry, all of which will help us develop our curriculum in these important areas.”
Tomic-Canic joins NINR advisory council
Marjana Tomic-CanicMarjana Tomic-Canic, a professor of dermatology and the director of the Wound Healing and Regenerative Medicine Research Program at the University of Miami medical school, was one of five people recently appointed to the National Advisory Council for Nursing Research, the principal advisory board of the National Institute of Nursing Research. As a member of the board, Tomic-Canic will provide recommendations on the direction and support of research on nursing practices and will review grant applications and extramural programs.
In memoriam: Stefan Andersson
Stefan AnderssonStefan Andersson, a research professor at the University of Houston’s Center for Nuclear Receptors and Cell Signaling, died in early June at age 59. Anderson, who joined the university in 2009, studied steroid hormone action in women’s reproductive health. Raised and educated in Sweden, Andersson previously worked at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas and Merck & Co.

Members’ age-related disease projects win BrightFocus grants

BrightFocus Foundation logoSeven ASBMB members in July won grants from the BrightFocus Foundation, which supports research on brain and eye diseases related to aging. The awards, issued to 53 researchers total, amount to $7.2 million. The ASBMB members and their project titles are as follows:
David A. Harris
Boston University School of Medicine
Treating Alzheimer’s disease with drugs directed against the prion protein
Joachim Herz
University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center
A novel therapeutic approach to the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease
Lee-Way Jin
University of California, Davis
A new anti-inflammatory therapy for Alzheimer’s disease
Stephen Strittmatter
Yale University School of Medicine
Prion drugs for Alzheimer’s disease therapy
Curtis Brandt
University of Wisconsin
An improved gene delivery method to lower eye pressure in primate eyes
Michael H. Elliott
University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center
Novel mechanism of control of aqueous fluid drainage
Beatrice Yue
University of Illinois Medical Center
Can optineurin protein aggregate to form toxic amyloidlike fibrils or oligomers?
Click here to read full descriptions of the winning investigators and their projects.

NCATS issues awards to repurpose shelved compounds
ASBMB member Strittmatter is among recipients
Stephen StrittmatterThe National Institutes of Health announced in June that it had awarded $12.7 million to nine academic research groups matched with pharmaceutical companies to explore new uses for some of the companies’ shelved compounds. One of the awards was issued to ASBMB member Stephen M. Strittmatter and his team at Yale University School of Medicine.
Strittmatter, along with Haakon Berge Nygaard and Christopher H. Van Dyck, will explore the use of a compound from AstraZeneca called saracatinib, or AZD0530. The team recently characterized, using a mouse model, a pathway in which beta amyloid damages neurons in Alzheimer’s disease; they found that inhibiting the Fyn kinase in that pathway reduced symptoms. The new study will test the use of saracatinib as a Fyn inhibitor, first in mice and later in humans, for safety. Previously, AstraZeneca tested the compound in humans with cancer.
Another group based at Baylor College of Medicine will study saracatinib in a lung disease called lymphangioleiomyomatosis.
The award program, called Discovering New Therapeutic Uses for Existing Molecules, is led by the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences and is funded by the NIH Common Fund. In late May 2012, NCATS made available information about more than 50 shelved compounds and solicited proposals for new uses from academic researchers. Those proposals were peer-reviewed, and then cooperative agreements between the winning institutions and the pharmaceutical companies were forged.
During a news teleconference on June 18, NCATS officials indicated that they’d aimed to fund about six projects through the program but ended up having enough money to fund more, because the funding requests from the winning proposals were lower than expected.
NCATS Director Christopher P. Austin said during the telephone briefing, “These companies have invested between $10 (million) to even $100 million in these drugs to get them to this point. We around here talk about football. This is an analogy of the drug-development process.... Some of these drugs have been taken all the way to the 10-yard line or the 5-yard line, and we’re hoping that we can have a new special team come in and even run a play or two and have a touchdown formation. So we’re really hopeful one of these will result in the end zone really soon.”

New and departing ASBMB Council and Committee members

Steven McKnight, President-Elect
Karen Allen, Secretary
Squire Booker, Council Member
Brenda Schulman, Council Member
Gregory Gatto Jr., Council Member
Takita Felder Sumter, Minority Affairs Committee Chair
Hinh Ly, Education and Professional Development Committee Member
Bob Matthews, Public Affairs Advisory Committee Chair
Gerald Carlson, Public Affairs Advisory Committee Member
Preston Hensley, Public Affairs Advisory Committee Member
Wesley Sundquist, Public Affairs Advisory Committee Member
Julie Hudson, Public Outreach Committee Member
Susanna Greer, Public Outreach Committee Member
Teresa Evans, Public Outreach Committee Member
Shannon Colton, Public Outreach Committee Member
Jeffrey Benovic, Publications Committee Chair
Alex Brown, Publications Committee Member
Blake Hill, Publications Committee Member
Anne-Frances Miller, Publications Committee Member
Thomas Poulos, Publications Committee Member
Lila Gierasch, Nominating Committee Member
Karen O’Malley, Meetings Committee Member
Thanks for your service!
Mark Lemmon, Past Secretary
Levi Garraway, Past Council Member
Jonathan Weissman, Past Council Member
Squire Booker, Past Minority Affairs Committee Chair
Weiping Jiang, Past Education and Professional Development Committee Member
Ron Bach, Past Public Affairs Advisory Committee Member
Henry Bourne, Past Public Affairs Advisory Committee Member
Lee Gehrke, Past Public Outreach Committee Member
Bob Palazzo, Past Public Outreach Committee Member
Paul Cook, Past Publications Committee Member
Frances Sharom, Past Publications Committee Member
Ann Marie Pendergast, Past Publications Committee Member
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