John A. Gerlt, Gutgsell chairman and professor of biochemistry, chemistry and biophysics at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, is the winner of the 2010 A. Ian Scott Medal, presented by the American Chemical Society Texas A&M Section and Texas A&M University’s department of chemistry. The award recognizes excellence in biological chemistry research. Gerlt will receive a gold medal and bronze replica during an awards ceremony at Texas A&M University in October.
Gerlt’s research focuses on the importance of chemistry in the evolution of new enzymatic activities. His work has included pioneering studies of how enzymes, such as mandelate racemase, abstract protons from extremely weak acids to generate carbanion intermediates. Gerlt and co-workers also suggested that electrophilic catalysis and strong hydrogen bonding were key factors in making such difficult reactions proceed at reasonable rates. These studies have led to a better appreciation for the sophisticated tools that enzymes can use to accelerate reactions.
Currently, Gerlt is studying two groups of enzymes that are derived from common ancestors, both of which share the ubiquitous (β/α) eight-barrel fold: the members of the enolase superfamily and the members of the orotidine 5’-monophosphate decarboxylase suprafamily. He also is involved in discovering and characterizing novel enzymes involved in the degradation of lignin in plant biomass.
Photo credit: L. Brian Stauffer, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.
David Ginsburg, the James V. Neel Distinguished University Professor of Internal Medicine and Human Genetics at the University of Michigan Medical School, is the recipient of the Robert J. and Claire Pasarow Foundation 22nd Annual Medical Research Award in Cardiovascular Disease.
The Robert J. and Claire Pasarow Foundation was established by the Pasarows more than 20 years ago to celebrate stellar achievement, creativity and distinction in research in three areas of medicine: cancer, cardiovascular disease and neuropsychiatry.
Ginsburg, who also is a Life Sciences Institute research professor and an investigator at Howard Hughes Medical Institute, studies the components of the blood-clotting system and how disturbances in their function lead to human bleeding and blood-clotting disorders. Specifically, he and his colleagues are looking at the blood-clotting protein von Willebrand factor and how molecular defects in the protein are responsible for many of the less common subtypes of von Willebrand disease. He also studies diseases involving coagulation factor V, a central regulator in the early phases of blood-clot formation, and plasminogen activator inhibitor-1 (PAI1) and PAI2, both of which regulate the fibrinolytic system that breaks down blood clots.