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Honors for Jackson, Simon, Tagliabracci

ASBMB Today Staff
Feb. 26, 2024

Stony Brook fellowship honors Simon

Stony Brook University has partnered with Guojuan (Amy) Liao, SBU alumna and founder of a genomics service company, to create a fellowship honoring Sanford Simon, a retired professor of biochemistry, cell biology and pathology who was an American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology member for 50 years.

Guojuan (Amy) Liao stands beside Sanford Simon, seated in front of windows.
Guojuan (Amy) Liao, left, has endowed a fellowship honoring Sanford Simon, right, a professor of biochemistry and cell biology and pathology.

The university will award the Dr. Sanford R. Simon Endowed Fellowship annually to a graduate student in the molecular and cell biology program at SBU. The first recipient was fourth-year grad student Leonidas (Louie) Pierrakeas.

Simon’s research focused on serine proteases and metalloproteases in neutrophils during inflammation. He developed many inhibitors to these enzymes to control excessive host inflammation during gum disease and after cardiopulmonary bypass. Simon also conducted research on tumor cell invasiveness and metastasis. In collaboration with other SBU professors, he worked to develop a personalized asthma breathalyzer to detect and measure nitric oxide, which can be used as a biomarker for lung inflammation.

“When I heard [Liao] was creating this fellowship in my name, I was honored and thrilled that she was supporting the department,” Simon said in an SBU press release.

Jackson awarded honorary professorship

Utah State University recently named Ryan Jackson the R. Gaurth Hansen Professor in the chemistry and biochemistry department.

Portrait of Ryan Jackson in the lab wearing goggles and lab coat
Ryan Jackson

Jackson is an associate professor at USU. His lab uses structural biology, biophysics and biochemistry to study the structure and function of newly discovered CRISPR type IV and V systems. He recently published back-to-back articles in Nature detailing the structure and function of CRISPR type V nuclease Cas12a2. Jackson received his Ph.D. in biochemistry from USU and completed postdoctoral research at Montana State University.

Hansen, for whom this professorship was named in 2020, served USU as a senior administrator, professor and researcher from 1968 to 1994. During his scientific career, Hansen investigated the nutrient density of food.

Lance Seefeldt, head of the chemistry and biochemistry department at USU, said of this year’s honor, “Ryan’s work with gene editing systems is expanding into new directions that will be advanced by this professorship. We are pleased to continue to honor the legacy of Dr. R. Gaurth Hansen with this professorship.”

Texas academy honors Tagliabracci

Vincent Tagliabracci has received the 2024 Edith and Peter O’Donnell Award in Biological Sciences from the Texas Academy of Medicine, Engineering, Science and Technology, or TAMEST. He is recognized for broadening the understanding of pseudokinases, a family of enzymes that play key roles in many physiological and pathological processes.

Portrait of Vincent Taggliabracci in lab coat in front of figures on white board
Vincent Tagliabracci

TAMEST presents annual awards recognizing the achievements of early-career Texas investigators in the fields of science, medicine, engineering and technology innovation. The O’Donnells were philanthropists who started a foundation in 1957 with the goal of improving higher education in Texas.

Tagliabracci is an associate professor of molecular biology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator. His lab uses bioinformatics, biochemistry, structural biology and molecular biology to study unusual protein modifications, such as glutamylation, AMPylation and RNA capping by proteins that resemble kinases.

Previously, Tagliabracci received the Esther L. Kinsley Dissertation Award from the Indiana University School of Medicine, a K99/R00 Pathway to Independence award from the National Institutes of Health and the Cancer Prevention Research Institute of Texas Recruitment of First-Time, Tenure-Track Faculty Members award.

“Dr. Tagliabracci’s discoveries of unexpected activities of atypical kinases in diverse clades of life have expanded the boundaries of the kinome and unveiled new biology with a broad range of therapeutic applications,” Eric Olson, chair and professor of molecular biology at UTSW, who nominated Tagliabracci, said in a news article.

Tagliabracci received a $25,000 prize. He was honored at the 2024 Edith and Peter O’Donnell Awards Ceremony and presented his findings at the TAMEST 2024 Annual Conference in Austin, Texas.


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