February 2010

ASBMB Member Spotlight

Kozarich Garners Distinguished Scientist Award

Spotlight---KozarichJohn W. Kozarich, chairman and president of ActivX Biosciences Inc., received the 2009 Distinguished Scientist Award from the San Diego section of the American Chemical Society for his work on identifying protein kinase and protease targets for screening drug candidates. The award, created in 1992, also recognizes Kozarich’s contributions to academic and industrial research, teaching, corporate leadership, mentoring young scientists and philanthropy.

In addition to his role at ActivX, Kozarich is chairman of the board at Ligand Pharmaceuticals Inc., chief scientific adviser at Kyorin Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd. and adjunct professor of biotechnology and chemical physiology at The Scripps Research Institute. He previously held faculty positions at the University of Maryland and Yale University School of Medicine, and, from 1992 to 2001, he was vice president at Merck Research Laboratories, where he was responsible for a number of research programs.

Kozarich is internationally known for his work on enzyme mechanisms and the chemistry of DNA-cleaving antitumor drugs and has received numerous awards and served on many committees in the academic, government and business sectors.

Schreiber Receives Wheland Medal

Spotlight---SchreiberStuart L. Schreiber, Morris Loeb professor of chemistry and chemical biology at Harvard University, has received the 2009-2010 Wheland Medal from the University of Chicago’s department of chemistry.

The medal, awarded every other year in memory of the physical-organic chemist George Wheland, recognizes a scientist who has made outstanding contributions to chemistry. Past recipients include Frank H. Westheimer, Harden M. McConnell, Nelson Leonard, Fred Wudl, Robert L. Baldwin and Robert H. Grubbs.

Schreiber is director of chemical biology and founding member of the Broad Institute of Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he is also a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator. He is best known for having developed systematic ways to explore biology, especially disease biology, using small molecules and for his role in the development of the field of chemical biology. He discovered principles that underlie information transfer and storage in cells, specifically discoveries relating to signaling by the phosphatase calcineurin and kinase mTOR, gene regulation by chromatin-modifying histone deacetylases and small-molecule probes of difficult targets and processes that directly relate to human disease.

Richard Presented with Schoellkopf Award

Spotlight---RichardJohn P. Richard, professor of chemistry at the State University of New York, Buffalo, was named the winner of the 2009 Jacob F. Schoellkopf Award, given annually by the American Chemical Society Western New York section for outstanding work and service in chemistry or chemical engineering. Richard was cited for his “outstanding research in the field of physical organic and bioorganic chemistry; specifically, the study of reaction mechanisms of biologically significant enzymatic and non-enzymatic reactions.”

Richard’s early work focused on the mechanisms of organic reactions in water that serve as models for enzyme-catalyzed reactions. These include nucleophilic substitution and proton transfer reactions at carbon and catalysis of phosphate diester hydrolysis by metal ion complexes. His research program since has expanded to include studies of the mechanisms for the stabilization of reactive intermediates at the active sites of enzymes, such as beta-galactosidase, triosephosphate isomerase, isopentenyl pyrophosphate isomerase and orotidine 5’-monophosphate decarboxylase. This has led to work that defines the critical role of flexible protein loops in stabilizing reactive enzyme-bound intermediates.

Paulson Honored with Karl Meyer Award

Spotlight---PaulsonJames C. Paulson, professor of chemical physiology and molecular biology at The Scripps Research Institute, was named the recipient of the Society for Glycobiology’s 2009 Karl Meyer Award.

The award, established in 1990 to honor Karl Meyer and his outstanding contributions to the field of glycobiology, is given to well-established scientists with active research programs who have made widely recognized contributions to the field of glycobiology.

Paulson is known as a leader in the chemical biology of carbohydrates and the biological function of glycoproteins and lectins. In his more than 30 years of research, he has made seminal discoveries and contributions to glycobiology. He was one of the first to use chemo-enzymatic synthesis of glycans as a tool to elucidate the functions of glycan binding proteins. His lab was also the first to clone and produce a family of recombinant sialyl transferases, which allowed large-scale synthesis of this synthetically challenging class of carbohydrates. His success in cloning of the first full-length glycosyltransferase, ST6Gal I, was a major achievement: It revealed the topology of glycosyltransferases with N-terminal signal anchors tethering the catalytic domain oriented to the lumen of secretory organelles and led to the production of recombinant glycosyltransferases for use as synthetic tools.

Steiner Wins Manpei Suzuki International Prize

Spotlight---SteinerDonald F. Steiner, A. N. Pritzker distinguished service professor emeritus in the departments of medicine and biochemistry and molecular biology at the University of Chicago, has been awarded the Manpei Suzuki Diabetes Prize for 2009.

The prize, now two years old, is the largest award for diabetes research. It was established to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the Manpei Suzuki Diabetes Foundation, and it honors “those who have enlightened researchers in the field of diabetes around the world with their original and excellent scientific achievements.” The prize includes a certificate of honor and $150,000.

The prize’s selection committee cited Steiner’s outstanding achievements over many years of research, including the discovery of proinsulin and characterization of the proinsulin processing pathway, clinical applications of a C-peptide radioimmunoassay for measuring endogenous insulin production and identification of a point mutation in the insulin gene causing various abnormalities in glucose metabolism.

“I am highly honored,” said Steiner. “It’s humbling to be recognized by my peers and gratifying to receive an award of this stature for my life’s work. I’m very grateful to my colleagues for the nomination and to the Manpei Suzuki Diabetes Foundation for this distinction.”

Schauer Shares Lifetime Achievement Award

Spotlight---SchauerRoland Schauer, professor of biochemistry emeritus at the University of Kiel in Germany, has been honored with the Society for Glycobiology’s 2009 Rosalind Kornfeld Award for Lifetime Achievement in Glycobiology. He shares the prize with Mary Catherine Glick of the University of Pennsylvania.

The Kornfeld Award was established in 2008 to honor Rosalind Kornfeld’s distinguished scientific career and service to the Glycobiology Society. It is given to scientists who have, over their professional lifetimes, made significant contributions that have had a large impact on the field.

Over the past 40 years, Schauer has contributed to the knowledge about the occurrence, structure, biosynthesis and functions of sialic acids. He discovered many new members of this sugar family and has isolated, characterized and cloned several of the key enzymes involved in the biosynthesis and degradation of a number of these compounds. In addition, he shed light on many of the functions of the sialic acids, such protecting cells from phagocytosis or serving as receptors for certain viruses. His work also has helped researchers understand many of the phenomena in which sialic acids are critically important, such as the control of cell and glycoprotein lifetime in the circulatory system, the adhesion of infectious agents to host cells and the recruitment of leukocytes to sites of inflammation.

In Memoriam: Robert Wenthold

Spotlight---WentholdRobert J. Wenthold, a neuroscientist who had been scientific director of the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, died Oct. 30 in Bethesda, Md. He was 61.

Wenthold was born in Cresco, Iowa. He graduated from Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa, and received a doctorate in biochemistry from Indiana University in 1974. He did postdoctoral work at the National Institutes of Health and later became a faculty member at the University of Wisconsin. In 1984, he joined what was then called the National Institute of Neurological and Communicative Disorders and Stroke as a senior investigator. Five years later, he moved to the new NIDCD and became its director in 1998. There, he was a vital force in helping to build the institute’s intramural research program. He also started a collaborative graduate student training program between the University of Maryland and the NIDCD, which later became a model for the Graduate Partnerships Program at the NIH.

Wenthold published widely and was a highly cited researcher in brain science. In 1989, he cloned a member of the family of receptors for glutamate, and, a year later, he developed the first antibodies to these receptors.

In Memoriam: Francis LeBaron

Francis Newton LeBaron passed away Nov. 2 in Cape Cod, Mass., at age 87.

Born in Framingham, Mass., LeBaron attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. After graduating, he entered the U.S. Navy and served in the North Pacific on the USS Watts during World War II.

After being discharged from the navy, LeBaron obtained a master’s degree from Boston University and a doctorate in biochemistry from Harvard University. After a postdoctoral fellowship in England and 10 years of research in neurochemistry of the brain at McLean Hospital in Belmont, Mass., he moved to Albuquerque, N.M., to help set up the University of New Mexico Medical School. He eventually served as chairman of the biochemistry department at the university while continuing his research on the aging of the brain.

LeBaron helped to establish the American Society for Neurochemistry and served on the editorial boards of several scientific journals. After retirement from the University of New Mexico, he lived in Blue Hill, Maine, for a year and became a certified yacht surveyor.

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