Award

Thorner stands as a giant in the golden age of yeast research

He won ASBMB's Herb Tabor Research Award
Gelareh (Abulwerdi)  Vinueza
April 1, 2019

Saccharomyces cerevisiae is a species of yeast, a unicellular organism long used by bakers and brewers. As a eukaryotic single-cell microbe, yeast is also a great organism for research. Among the pioneers in studying yeast is Jeremy Thorner, who has increased understanding of signal transduction in several diseases, using yeast as a research model.

Jeremy Thorner
“I feel very honored to be the most recent (2019) recipient of the ASBMB Herbert Tabor Research Award. The year (1971) Herb ascended to editor-in-chief of the JBC coincided with my first scientific publication (in the JBC, of course!) and his superb stewardship of the journal over the next four decades is legendary among biochemists. Having the opportunity to be a scientist and do research has been an enormous privilege.”

— Jeremy Thorner

For his breakthrough research and other contributions to science, Thorner, a professor of biochemistry, biophysics and structural biology at the University of California, Berkeley, has won the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology’s 2019 Herbert Tabor Research Award, which honors excellence in biological chemistry and molecular biology and contributions to the community of scientists.

Thorner grew up in Quincy, Massachusetts. He received his Ph.D. in biochemistry from Harvard University in 1972 under the guidance of Henry Paulus, studying a model allosteric enzyme, E. coli glycerol kinase. As a postdoctoral fellow under I. Robert Lehman at Stanford University, he studied T4 phage and E. coli DNA replication.

At a Lake Arrowhead Genetics Conference in Los Angeles, Thorner ran into Ira Herskowitz, an acquaintance from graduate school, who was studying mating-type switching in yeast. At Herskowitz’s suggestion, Thorner enrolled in the Cold Spring Harbor yeast genetics course, which led him to establish projects working with yeast in his own lab when he joined the faculty at UC Berkeley in 1974.

Along with an early student, David Julius, Thorner published seminal papers describing the mechanisms by which the peptide mating pheromones of yeast are produced. One of these factors is pheromone precursor prepro-alpha-factor, which is processed to its active form through the secretory pathway. Julius and Thorner discovered Kex2, a prohormone-processing endoprotease whose mammalian orthologs are important in maturation of proinsulin and other bioactive peptides. These discoveries contributed to making recombinant insulin for treating diabetes.

Using yeast, Thorner studied G-protein coupled receptors, or GPCRs, and their downstream signaling cascades. He cloned the first MAP kinase, Kss1, and showed that these kinases are downstream of GPCRs. This work helped illuminate certain pathways that are important in cancer treatment.

Michael Hall of the University of Basel nominated Thorner for the award, calling him “one of the giants of the golden age of yeast research.” Hall wrote in his nomination letter that Thorner “has continually made groundbreaking contributions of great importance to our understanding of hormone action, signal transduction and cellular morphogenesis at the biochemical level.”

Thorner is an outstanding mentor, according to Hall, “with at least seven former Ph.D. students and fifteen postdocs in faculty positions at distinguished universities.” He is also a longtime journal editor who “tirelessly writes lengthy emails to authors to ensure a fair, constructive review process,” Hall wrote.

Enjoy reading ASBMB Today?

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

Learn more
Gelareh (Abulwerdi)  Vinueza

Gelareh (Abulwerdi) Vinueza graduated with her Ph.D. from the molecular medicine program at the University of Maryland, Baltimore. She is currently a policy fellow at the Food and Drug Administration. She has been an ASBMB volunteer writer since 2018 and is passionate about science communication and science policy. Outside of work, she enjoys photography, hiking and cooking.

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

ASCB honors Asai, Goley and Bagde
Member News

ASCB honors Asai, Goley and Bagde

Dec. 5, 2022

These three ASBMB members have won recognition from the American Society for Cell Biology.

ASBMB delegates leave their mark on policymaking
Feature

ASBMB delegates leave their mark on policymaking

Dec. 1, 2022

Advocacy Training Program participants use their new skills to improve their institutional environments, create new programs, draft policy recommendations, perform targeted outreach and more.

2022 Sewer scholarship winners announced
Society News

2022 Sewer scholarship winners announced

Nov. 28, 2022

The $2,000 award goes to undergraduates who demonstrate an interest in the fields of biochemistry and molecular biology and enhance the diversity of science.

Brought to you (mostly) by and for women
Annual Meeting

Brought to you (mostly) by and for women

Nov. 23, 2022

The ASBMB’s Women in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Committee has big plans for Discover BMB 2023.

Dedicated to sharing science
Student Chapters

Dedicated to sharing science

Nov. 21, 2022

Introduced to scientific research through her Tufts University ASBMB Student Chapter, Lema Abuoqab works to make sure other students can have the same experience.

Tolbert named HHMI VP; new phase for Hannun
Member News

Tolbert named HHMI VP; new phase for Hannun

Nov. 21, 2022

Awards, promotions, milestones and more. Find out what's going on in the lives of ASBMB members.