March 2010

Member Spotlight

Bandarian Honored with Pfizer Award

Spot---BandarianVahe Bandarian, assistant professor of biochemistry and molecular biophysics and assistant professor of chemistry at the University of Arizona, has been named the recipient of the 2010 American Chemical Society Division of Biological Chemistry Pfizer Award in Enzyme Chemistry.

The award recognizes Bandarian’s work on various aspects of the biosynthetic pathways for bacterial secondary metabolites. He and his colleagues undertook these studies to aid in understanding the pathways and chemical transformations that underlie the biosynthesis of these natural products, the mechanisms for the evolution of catalysts in these pathways and the broader issues involving evolution of secondary metabolic pathways in bacteria.

According to the ACS division of biological chemistry, “Professor Bandarian’s work is a tour de force at the cutting edge of microbial bioinformatics, natural-product biosynthesis, metabolomics and the de-orphaning of open reading frames of unknown function.”

Bandarian is especially noted for the identification and characterization of the gene cluster responsible for the production of the deazapurine natural products toyocamycin and sanguvamycin in Streptomyces rimosus. Although this class of compounds was discovered more than four decades ago, the biosynthetic pathways that produced them had remained elusive. 

Halpert Receives Brodie Award

Spot---HalpertJames Halpert, professor and associate dean for scientific affairs at the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, has been awarded the Bernard B. Brodie Award in Drug Metabolism for 2010.

The award is presented biennially to recognize outstanding original research contributions in drug metabolism and disposition, particularly those having a major impact on future research in the field. Named after the scientist known as “the father of modern drug metabolism,” the award is sponsored by the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics Division for Drug Metabolism.

For the past 30 years, Halpert’s research has looked at the structure and function of mammalian cytochromes P450. Heterogeneity in the expression levels and/or activities of these important drug-metabolizing enzymes is a major determinant of individual response to medications and environmental toxicants. Because many of the failures in investigational drug development result from suboptimal pharmacokinetics, drug interactions and/or toxicity, methods for predicting cytochrome P450-mediated metabolism of new compounds are currently in great demand. Progress in this area is dependent on sophisticated understanding of the structural determinants and mechanisms of cytochrome P450 function, which Halpert has helped to elucidate.

Penning to Receive NPA Award

Spot---PenningTrevor M. Penning, professor of pharmacology, biochemistry and biophysics at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, has been selected to receive the 2010 Distinguished Service Award from the National Postdoctoral Association. The award is given to an individual or entity that has demonstrated either a profound, sustained or leadership contribution to improving postdoctoral experience.

Penning, who is also director of the Center of Excellence in Environmental Toxicology at the University of Pennsylvania, will receive his award at the NPA’s eighth annual meeting in March.

According to the NPA, Penning is “recognized in the postdoctoral community as a longtime advocate on behalf of postdoctoral scholars, both on the home and national fronts.” He oversaw the formation of the postdoctoral office at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and served as the director of the office of postdoctoral programs, associate dean for postdoctoral research training and director of biomedical postdoctoral programs. When the NPA was formed in 2001, Penning served on its first advisory board and played an influential role in guiding the nascent organization toward independence and national relevance.

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