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Pew names investigators

ASBMB Today Staff
Feb. 19, 2024

The Pew Charitable Trusts has 12 new Innovation Fund investigators, including Donita C. Brady, Kivanç Birsoy and Katsuhiko Murakami. This 2024 class will form six partnerships to work on interdisciplinary research projects exploring key questions in life science, human biology and disease.

Portrait of Donita Brady
Donita C. Brady
portrait of Kivanç Birsoy
Kivanç Birsoy
portrait of Katsuhiko Murakami
Katsuhiko Murakami

Brady is an associate professor of cancer biology at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine. The Brady lab explores the role that copper plays in activating proteins that can drive tumor formation. She has received the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Herb Tabor Young Investigator Award, the William Guy Forbeck Research Foundation Scholar Award and a V Foundation Scholar Award, along with honors  from the Perelman School of Medicine: Linda Pechenik Montague Investigator Award and Michael S. Brown New Investigator Award. Brady is also an associate editor and editorial board member of the Journal of Biological Chemistry. She was named a Pew biomedical scholar in 2016.

Birsoy is an associate professor of metabolic regulation and genetics at Rockefeller University. His lab investigates metabolic changes that occur in cancer cells during tumor formation and metastasis.  He has received many awards including the Blavatnik National Award Finalist in Life Sciences, the American Society for Cell Biology Innovation in Research Award, the Mark Foundation Emerging Leader Award and the Vilcek Prize for Creative Promise in Biomedical Science. He was named a Pew biomedical scholar in 2018.

Birsoy and Brady will collaborate to identify components in cells that regulate or respond to transition metal homeostasis. This work will enhance our current understanding of cellular regulation of metals, which is critical in maintaining the delicate balance between metal deficiency and toxicity and preventing disease.

Murakami is a professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at Pennsylvania State University and a faculty director of Huck Cryo-EM facility. His lab uses X-ray crystallography and cryo-electron microscopy to determine structures of cellular and bacteriophage RNA polymerases to understand RNA transcription and regulation. He was named a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2020.

Murakami, who was named a Pew biomedical scholar in 2005, will partner with Gene-Wei Li, an associate professor of biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. They will study transcription termination in cyanobacteria, which could have broad-reaching impacts extending to chloroplasts and other bacterial species.

“An interdisciplinary approach to research is critical to uncovering scientific breakthroughs and making lasting change,” Donna Frisby-Greenwood, senior vice president for Philadelphia and scientific advancement at The Pew Charitable Trusts, said. “Pew is thrilled to support this exceptional group of investigators, whose collective efforts will help move the needle in important areas of health and medicine.”

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