October 2010

ASBMB Member Spotlight

Member-Spotlight---AlbertsAlberts Honored with Vannevar Bush Award

Bruce M. Alberts was named the recipient of the 2010 Vannevar Bush Award, presented by the National Science Board, in recognition of his lifetime contributions to the U.S. in science and technology.

The award honors truly exceptional, lifelong leaders in science and technology who have made substantial contributions to the welfare of the nation through public-service activities in science, technology and public policy. It was established in 1980 in memory of Vannevar Bush, who served as science advisor to President Franklin D. Roosevelt during World War II, helped to establish federal funding for science and engineering as a national priority during peacetime and was behind the creation of the National Science Foundation.

Alberts currently serves as editor-in-chief of the journal Science and as a U.S. science envoy. He also is professor emeritus in the department of biochemistry and biophysics at the University of California, San Francisco.

“We are pleased to recognize Bruce for his dedication to the creativity, openness and tolerance that define science, passion for improving the human condition and transformational and inspirational leadership in science education, international capacity building and the tireless pursuit of a scientific temperament for the world,” said Steven Beering, NSB chairman.

Photo Credit: Tom Kochel, AAAS

Member-Spotlight,-CatterallCatterall Wins Gairdner Award

William A. Catterall, chairman and professor of the department of pharmacology at the University of Washington School of Medicine, was one of five scientists awarded 2010 Canada Gairdner International Awards from the Gairdner Foundation.

The Gairdner Awards are given annually to individuals from a variety of fields for outstanding discoveries or contributions to medical science. According to the Gairdner Foundation, which was established by Toronto stockbroker James Arthur Gairdner in 1957, next to the Nobel Prize in Medicine, the Canada Gairdner Awards are the most prestigious global medical research awards.

Catterall was recognized by the foundation for discovering the voltage-gated sodium-channel and calcium-channel proteins that underlie electrical signaling in the brain. His work also has led to a new understanding of the molecular mechanisms of function and regulation of these ion channel proteins. Catterall’s recent work has turned toward understanding diseases caused by impaired function and regulation of voltage-gated ion channels, including epilepsy and periodic paralysis.

Catterall officially will be presented with the 2010 Canada Gairdner International Award in October. Each of the awards come with a $100,000 cash prize.

Member-Spotlight,-Gerlt Gerlt Wins Scott Medal

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.

Member-Spotlight,-GinsburgGinsburg Honored with Medical Research Award

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.


Member-Spotlight,-JordanJordan Appointed to Komen Council

V. Craig Jordan has been appointed to the Susan G. Komen for the Cure® Scientific Advisory Council. Jordan is the scientific director and vice chairman of the department of oncology at the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center at Georgetown University Medical Center.

According to Komen, appointment to the council is reserved for those who have a distinguished record of leadership and commitment to breast cancer research, as well as innovative contributions to breast cancer advancements. Those who are appointed as council members “will serve as distinguished scholars advising and providing expertise to Susan G. Komen for the Cure in peer review, scientific research, sponsored programs, program development and review and public policy.”

Council members serve for renewable, two-year terms during which they are expected to commit approximately 100 to 120 hours each year to council activities. Jordan also will be awarded a $250,000 Komen research grant annually for the duration of his term on the council. The grant must be used to study critical questions in breast cancer.

Jordan is an internationally recognized breast cancer scientist whose research focuses on the response of breast cancer cells to preventive and treatment agents. A pharmacologist, Jordan is recognized by many as the “father” of the anticancer drug tamoxifen.

Member-Spotlight,-KatzenellenbogenKatzenellenbogen Receives Portoghese Award

John A. Katzenellenbogen, Swanlund chairman and professor of chemistry at the University of Illinois, recently was selected to receive the inaugural Philip S. Portoghese Medicinal Chemistry Lectureship. The award, named in honor of Phil Portoghese, the long-standing editor-in-chief of the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry, is administered jointly by the editor-in-chief of the journal and the American Chemical Society Division of Medicinal Chemistry.

The lectureship honors the contributions of an individual who has had a major impact on medicinal chemistry research.

Katzenellenbogen’s research spans chemistry, biology and medicine and involves analysis of steroid receptor structure and function and use of receptors and their ligands in various biological and biomedical applications. He prepared the first-affinity labels and subtype-specific agents for estrogen receptors, and he has probed the receptor with ligands of diverse structure and chemotype, finding compounds with unusually selective biological activities. He also has developed an extensive series of steroid receptor-based agents for imaging receptor-positive breast and prostate tumors by positron emission tomography and obtained the first PET images of these tumors based on their receptor content.


Member-Spotlight,-SifersSifers Garners Award for Excellence in Education

Richard N. Sifers, an associate professor of pathology and immunology at Baylor College of Medicine, received the Barbara and Corbin J. Robertson, Jr. Presidential Award for Excellence in Education. The honor is Baylor College of Medicine’s highest award given to faculty members for their efforts in education.

Sifers has served as a member of more than 40 graduate student committees and has lectured at numerous international symposia and workshops in which scientists, students, clinicians and patients have served as the immediate learners. He also is involved with the Alpha-1 Foundation, serving as a member of its educational materials working group, which develops educational materials for worldwide distribution as a means to educate the public about the cause of numerous conformational diseases.

Sifers’ research focuses on dissecting the mechanism of human endoplasmic reticulum mannosidase I and delineating its participation in the etiology of liver disease. His long-term goal is to demonstrate how a core element of the glycoprotein quality control machinery can function as a disease modifier, possible diagnostic marker and potential site for therapeutic intervention.

Four ASBMB Members Receive HUPO Awards

The Human Proteome Organization Awards committee recently announced the recipients of the HUPO distinguished awards for 2010, four of whom were American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology members. Richard M. Caprioli will receive the HUPO Distinguished Achievement Award in Proteomic Sciences, John J. M. Bergeron was named the HUPO Discovery Award in Proteomics Sciences recipient, and Michael Dunn and Ralph A. Bradshaw garnered the HUPO Distinguished Service Award.

Richard M Caprioli, Stanley Cohen professor of biochemistry and director of the Mass Spectrometry Research Center at the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, investigates biological processes involving the synthesis, modification, storage and degradation of peptides and proteins using mass spectrometric methods of analysis to follow molecular events.

John J. M. Bergeron, a medical scientist in the department of medicine at the McGill University Health Centre Research Institute, uses proteomics to characterize the proteins of the mammalian cell by a strategy known as the CellMap.

Michael Dunn, professor of biomedical proteomics at the University College Dublin Conway Institute of Biomolecular and Biomedical Research, focuses on three major areas of biomedicine: cardiovascular proteomics, transplantation proteomics and neuroproteomics.

Ralph A. Bradshaw, professor emeritus of physiology and biophysics at the University of California, Irvine, has two major areas of investigation in his laboratory. In the first, polypeptide growth factors and their receptors are being examined with respect to structure and mechanism, whereas the second block of studies addresses the manner in which protein turnover in eukaryotic cells is regulated.

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