Award

Ion channel researcher receives Tabor award from journal

Courtney Chandler
Jan. 1, 2018

Voltage-gated calcium and sodium channels are involved in numerous biological processes. Sodium channels support fast propagation of electrical impulses. Calcium channels, in response to the electrical impulses, convey calcium ions into cells, and this can have different effects based on the type of cell. One effect is changes in gene expression in both neuronal and cardiac cells, which is mediated by the influx of calcium and a variety of down-stream partners. The molecular properties of both channels are fine-tuned by a number of proteins, allowing them to perform their wide-ranging biological roles.

Manu Ben–Johny won a 2017 Journal of Biological Chemistry/Herb Tabor Young Investigator Award during the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology’s 2017 Conference on Ion Channel Regulation. courtesy of manu ben–johny

Manu Ben–Johny, a postdoctoral researcher at Johns Hopkins University, has been researching the molecular and biophysical properties involved in channel fine-tuning, leading to insights into how channel dysfunction may be involved in specific diseases and how synthetic proteins could be used to modulate channel function in a specific manner. For his work, Ben–Johny won a 2017 Journal of Biological Chemistry/Herb Tabor Young Investigator Award. “I am truly humbled to receive such an honor from the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology,” Ben–Johny said. “The young investigator awards are an important way to encourage, inspire and promote creativity and scientific rigor in young scientists.”

The award honors Herb Tabor’s contributions to science and recognizes innovative new researchers who exemplify scientific creativity. Ben–Johny was selected by a panel of three experts during the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology 2017 Conference on Ion Channel Regulation. “The quality of his poster was outstanding,” said Robert Colbran, a member of the panel. “He presented the poster with great enthusiasm, displaying an outstanding depth of knowledge in responding to questions.”

Ben–Johny began his graduate studies at Johns Hopkins with the goal of engineering medical devices. However, his focus changed after meeting his eventual graduate studies mentor, the late David T. Yue. “He spoke elegantly about the voltage-gated calcium ion channel as though it were an electrical device,” Ben–Johny said. “Instead of building devices, I got to apply the same quantitative thinking to unravel deep mysteries about ion channels and their molecular mechanisms.”

Ben–Johny stayed at Johns Hopkins for his postdoctoral studies to continue his research on voltage-gated calcium and sodium channels, including how the calcium-binding protein calmodulin, or CaM, is involved in tuning channel function. He and colleagues have described a mechanism by which CaM signaling to the two ion channels is selectively silenced by different proteins, providing insights into how aberrant signaling may lead to disease.

Ben–Johny’s current research focuses on the interplay of ion channels, CaM/calcium modulation and disease. Calcium channel misregulation has been implicated in human diseases, including cardiac and neurological disorders. “Resolving these pathogenic mechanisms and devising novel strategies to rescue channel function in the context of disease is critical and a worthy endeavor,” Ben–Johny said.

This year Ben–Johny will become an assistant professor at Columbia University, where he plans to continue his research on calcium-regulated ion channels and disease. “As I embark on this new leg of my scientific journey,” he said, “the incredible accomplishments of Herb Tabor both scientifically and in terms of enriching the scientific community serve as an exemplar in my own journey.”

The Tabor award is changing

The selection process for the Journal of Biological Chemistry/Herb Tabor Young Investigator Award will change in 2018. A panel of JBC associate editors will select a handful of first authors on JBC papers for the award. The winners will be invited to give short talks at the annual meeting of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. To recommend a first author for the award, contact JBC Associate Editor George DeMartino.

Enjoy reading ASBMB Today?

Become a member to receive the print edition monthly and the digital edition weekly.

Learn more
Courtney Chandler

Courtney Chandler is a careers columnist for ASBMB Today.

Get the latest from ASBMB Today

Enter your email address, and we’ll send you a weekly email with recent articles, interviews and more.

Latest in People

People highlights or most popular articles

Bertrand Coste and the pressure receptor
Feature

Bertrand Coste and the pressure receptor

Jan. 27, 2022

“It was almost one of those ‘I can’t believe you’re doing this’ kind of projects.” The search for a protein that senses pressure. Part of a series on the 2021 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine.

David McKemy and the cold receptor
Feature

David McKemy and the cold receptor

Jan. 26, 2022

“This is the nature of doing bench work. We all go through those periods when stuff’s not working.” How persistence unlocked the cold-sensitive receptor TRPM8. Part of a series on the 2021 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine.

How the Julius lab found that an ion channel senses heat
Feature

How the Julius lab found that an ion channel senses heat

Jan. 25, 2022

“Holy cow, this is why hot peppers are hot.” How researchers established that the capsaicin receptor also recognizes heat. Part of a series on the 2021 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine.

Partch wins NAS Award in Molecular Biology
Member News

Partch wins NAS Award in Molecular Biology

Jan. 24, 2022

It recognizes a “recent notable discovery in molecular biology by a young scientist." Partch studies the molecular mechanisms of circadian signaling in mammalian and bacterial cells.

Michael Caterina and the capsaicin receptor
Feature

Michael Caterina and the capsaicin receptor

Jan. 24, 2022

Being scooped left a postdoc with a toolkit for hunting receptors — and a daring new project. First in a series on the 2021 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine.

In memoriam: Frank F. Davis
In Memoriam

In memoriam: Frank F. Davis

Jan. 24, 2022

The biochemist who 50 years ago came up with a drug delivery system now used in mRNA COVID-19 vaccines, Davis died at the age of 100.