November 2012

Member update

Lefkowitz, Kobilka claim Nobel Prize for GPCR work
Photo of Robert J. LefkowitzPhoto of Brian K. KobilkaRobert J. Lefkowitz of Duke University Medical Center and Brian K. Kobilka of the Stanford University School of Medicine won last month the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their studies of G-protein-coupled receptors. Their early work partially explained how cells sense and react to chemical messages, which provided the basis for about 40 percent of today’s drugs. More recently, in a feat called a “molecular masterpiece” by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, Kobilka captured visually the moment a hormone triggered a receptor to activate a G protein. “I hope I can continue doing what I’m doing, and I hope that this recognition will positively influence support for basic research,” Kobilka noted. In a phone interview with, Lefkowitz said he sensed “a tremendous sense of institutional pride” at Duke, for which this is the first Nobel. He continued, “The Nobel prize is often seen, of course, as awards to individuals, but beyond that they’re recognition of a field, and so everybody in the field feels good about it.” Lefkowitz was the first winner of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology’s Herbert Tabor Lectureship back in 2004. Kobilka, winner of the ASBMB’s most recent Earl and Thressa Stadtman Distinguished Scientist Award, will give an award lecture at the annual meeting in Boston in April.

Case Western's Weiss lauded for commercialization, leadership
Photo of Michael A. Weiss winning the Saltzman AwardMichael A. Weiss of the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine won the Mt. Sinai Health Care Foundation’s Maurice Saltzman Award. The award, established in 1983 in honor of a successful businessman and philanthropist who generously supported the Mt. Sinai Medical Center and served on its board of directors, is bestowed annually upon people and organizations that make important contributions to the health interests of the community. Weiss was among 36 nominees. The founder of Thermalin Diabetes and co-founder of Great Lakes Pharmaceuticals, Weiss focuses primarily on molecular endocrinology and has been a major player at the Cleveland Center for Membrane and Structural Biology, a collaboration between scientists and clinicians at Case Western and the Cleveland Clinic, and an important force in the establishment of the Institute for Therapeutic Protein Engineering at Case Western.

Amezquita, Wardlow named HHMI Gilliam Fellows
Photo of Robert AmezquitaPhoto of Robert Wardlow Robert Amezquita, a Ph.D. student at Yale University, and Robert Wardlow, an M.D./Ph.D. student at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, both won the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s 2012 Gilliam Fellowships for Advanced Study. Amezquita, a native of San Diego, and Wardlow, a native of Cherry Hill, N.J., were among nine winners of the fellowships, which support underrepresented investigators for five years while they pursue their doctorates. All Gilliam fellows are former participants in HHMI’s Exceptional Research Opportunities Program, which matches undergrads with HHMI investigators.

UC-Berkeley’s Bustamante wins Vilcek Prize
Photo of Carlos J. BustamanteCarlos J. Bustamante of the University of California, Berkeley, earlier this year won the 2012 Vilcek Prize in Biomedical Science from the Vilcek Foundation for his single-molecule manipulation methods. The prize honors people born abroad who make important contributions to American society through biomedical research and the arts or humanities. Bustamante, a biophysicist native to Peru, today is director of the Advanced Microscopy Department of the Physical Biosciences Division of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. The prize includes a $100,000 award and a sculpture.

Immunology society honors Cresswell, Weiss, Atkinson
Photo of Peter CresswellPhoto of Arthur WeissPhoto of John P. AtkinsonThree ASBMB members earlier this year won awards from the American Association of Immunologists. Peter Cresswell of the Yale School of Medicine won the AAI-Life Technologies Meritorious Career Award. The award given to Cresswell, who recently joined the ranks of The Journal of Biological Chemistry’s associate editors, is given annually to a midcareer scientist for outstanding research contributions. Meanwhile, Arthur Weiss of the University of California, San Francisco, won the Lifetime Achievement Award, the association’s highest honor. Cresswell and Weiss are both Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigators. The AAI Award for Human Immunology Research went to John P. Atkinson of Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine for sustained achievement in research.

Cantley leaves Harvard to lead new cancer center
Photo of Lewis CantleyLewis Cantley of Harvard Medical School was tapped to head up the new Cancer Center at Weill Cornell Medical College and New York-Presbyterian Hospital, which is slated to open on the Upper East Side of Manhattan in 2014. As director, Cantley will oversee the cancer center’s basic and clinical research operations, a tumor tissue bank, patient care and other facilities. A cell biologist, Cantley in the 1980s discovered the signaling pathway phosphoinositide 3-kinase, which is frequently mutated in cancer, and since then has worked to find new treatments for those with such mutations by characterizing the mechanism by which PI3K is activated and by elucidating its pathways. Cantley has been the director of cancer research at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center since 2007. He is also co-founder of Agios Pharmaceuticals and serves on multiple scientific advisory boards.

Palazzo named UAB interim dean
Photo of Robert E. Palazzo Currently on leave from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Robert E. Palazzo is now serving as the interim dean for the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. The college, created after an academic realignment in 2009, includes programs in the arts, humanities and sciences. Palazzo, a professor since 2002 and a former provost at Rensselaer in Troy, N.Y., was selected for the UAB post for “his extensive experience as an educator, researcher, leader and mentor,” the university said in a statement, adding that he had “the best combination of qualities needed” to direct the college during its transition.

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