March 2011

Member Update

Barbas wins NIH Pioneer Award

Carlos F. Barbas III, the Janet and Keith Kellogg II chair in molecular biology at the Scripps Research Institute, is among the recipients of the 2010 National Institutes of Health Director’s Pioneer Awards. The awards, given to exceptionally creative scientists who take innovative approaches to major challenges in biomedical research, provide up to $500,000 in research funding for five years.

Barbas’ project will focus on chemically programming immunity, which could lead to pills that instantaneously program both adaptive and innate arms of the immune system to attack a tumor or virus, preventing infection and halting disease. His goal is to develop novel approaches that allow innate and acquired immunity to be targeted purposefully to pathogens of interest. Ultimately, the studies will allow scientists to program a variety of immune cells and responses to attack pathogens of interest using a variety of mechanisms. He also intends to explore novel approaches that should allow for circulating immunoglobulins induced with covalent vaccines to be programmed to inhibit HIV-1 and flu virus entry. The vaccines that result from these studies may be of both prophylactic and therapeutic utility.


Burgers named Marvin A. Brennecke professor of biological chemistry

Peter M. J. Burgers has been named the Marvin A. Brennecke professor of biological chemistry at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. The professorship will provide continuous funding for Burgers’ research, which focuses on DNA replication and repair.

The professorship is named for Marvin A. Brennecke, a 1930 graduate of the school of medicine. Brennecke spent the bulk of his career in Hawaii, where he served as the Territory of Hawaii government physician for the Koloa District and later as medical director of Waimea Hospital in Waimea, Kauai. Brennecke died in 1994, leaving a gift to the university that provides ongoing funding for three named professorships. In addition to Burgers’ appointment, the gift supports the Brennecke professor of molecular microbiology and the Brennecke professor of biophysics.

Burgers studies DNA metabolism in yeast cells. He is particularly interested in the DNA replication fork and the mechanisms that come into play when replication goes awry because of DNA damage or other stress.


Hood awarded bioengineering’s Russ Prize

Leroy Hood, president and co-founder of the Institute for Systems Biology, has been awarded the bioengineering profession’s highest honor, the Fritz J. and Dolores H. Russ Prize. The prize, given by Ohio University and the National Academy of Engineering, was presented to Hood for his discoveries related to the sequencing of the human genome.

“Dr. Hood’s contribution has advanced health and quality of life in the U.S. and around the world, and have enhanced the education of future engineering leaders,” said NAE president Charles Vest in a news release. “Recognizing him not only rewards great accomplishments but also shines a light on the importance of work that may inspire others to build on their achievements.”

Hood developed the automated DNA sequencer, which enables the rapid, automated sequencing of DNA, making a significant contribution to the mapping of the human genome and revolutionizing the field of genomics. To date, more than 1,000 genomes have been revealed using the automated DNA sequencer, transforming many areas of biology and accelerating the pace of scientific discovery in ways that will profoundly impact research in the coming decades.
The advancement also has led to expressed sequence tagging, which ultimately helped to predict gene function, and the ability to identify genes involved in diseases.

The Russ Prize was established in 1999 at the request of Ohio University to honor alumnus and esteemed engineer Fritz Russ and his wife, Dolores. Their multimillion dollar gift to the university for the prize was intended to promote engineering education and bioengineering achievements that are in widespread use and have improved the human condition worldwide. Hood is the sixth recipient of the biennial prize, which is modeled after the Nobel Prize.

Jentsch receives Louis-Jeantet Prize for Medicine

Stefan Jentsch, director of the department of molecular cell biology at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry in Germany, has been selected to receive the 2011 Louis-Jeantet Prize for Medicine.

Jentsch received the award for his work on small protein modifiers and their role in DNA repair. He pioneered studies on protein modifications by ubiquitin and related proteins. Modification of proteins by ubiquitin usually targets the proteins for degradation. However, Jentsch’s research revealed that ubiquitin also plays a crucial role in genome maintenance and DNA repair. This research has significant medical importance, as damaged DNA can cause various diseases, notably cancer.

The Louis-Jeantet Foundation grants 700,000 Swiss Francs for each of the 2011 prizes, 600,000 of which are for the continuation of the prize-winners’ work and 100,000 for their personal use. The prizes are given to cutting-edge researchers who are active in the European Council member countries. Established in 1986, the Louis-Jeantet Prize for Medicine thus far has been awarded to 73 researchers: 23 in the United Kingdom, 14 in Switzerland, 12 in France, 11 in Germany, three in the Netherlands, three in Sweden, two in Belgium, two in Finland, two in Norway and one in Austria.


Schreiber receives chemical biology lectureship

Stuart L. Schreiber, the Morris Loeb professor in the department of chemistry and chemical biology at Harvard University and founding member of the Broad Institute of Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University, has been awarded the American Chemical Society’s Chemical Biology Lectureship in recognition of his pioneering contributions to research at the interface of chemistry and biology.

Schreiber and his colleagues pioneered the concept of diversity-oriented synthesis and chemical genetics to discover new drug targets and to elucidate new biological pathways, including the fundamental biological importance of histone deacetylation. His current work deals with exploiting new insights into cancer cell genomes to develop novel therapeutic agents by correlating drug efficacies with the genetic features of human cancers.


Three ASBMB members split Wilson Award

Stuart Kornfeld James E. Rothman Randy W. Schekman

Stuart KornfeldJames E. Rothman and Randy W. Schekman were awarded the E. B. Wilson Medal, the American Society for Cell Biology’s highest honor, for their pioneering research on protein transport.

Kornfeld, co-director of the Division of Hematology at the Washington University School of Medicine, was noted by the selection committee as having been at the forefront of research in glycobiology, protein trafficking and metabolic disorders throughout a career spanning more than four decades.

The Selection Committee also recognized Rothman and Schekman as pioneers in the understanding of the molecular basis of protein transport through the secretory pathway and as internationally renowned leaders in cell biology. Rothman is chairman of the department of cell biology at the Yale University School of Medicine and Schekman is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator as well as professor of cell and developmental biology at the University of California, Berkeley.

In memoriam: James R. Mattoon

James R. (Jim) Mattoon of Loveland, Colo., passed away Dec. 24. He was 80.

Mattoon was born in 1930 in Loveland. He attended Colorado Agricultural and Mechanical College (now Colorado State University) and graduated from the University of Illinois in 1953. Mattoon received his Master of Science and doctorate in biochemistry degrees from the University of Wisconsin and taught at the University of Nebraska and the Johns Hopkins Medical School. He moved to Colorado Springs in 1979 to teach at the University of Colorado, where he remained until he retired.

Mattoon lived in both Mexico City and Rio de Janeiro, where he did further research and taught. He lectured in many places in the world, often in the local language, and supervised many foreign graduate and postdoctoral students. At the time of his retirement, Mattoon was teaching in the microbiology and genetics department of CU, Colorado Springs. He also was an accomplished pianist and tenor soloist in his younger years.

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