Member Spotlight

In memoriam

Michael Wakelam, director of the Babraham Institute and professor of lipid signaling at Cambridge University, died on March 31 of presumed COVID-19 infection.

Kerry-Anne Rye and Nicholas Davidson, who worked with Wakelam on the Journal of Lipid Research, wrote, “Michael was a brilliant lipid biochemist whose work touched many aspects of lipid biology in health and disease … Those who had the privilege of knowing him enjoyed his generous spirit as well as his passion for science.”

Alexandra Newton will receive Biophysics of Health and Disease award

Alexandra Newton, a professor of pharmacology at the University of California, San Diego, received the Biophysical Society’s Award in the Biophysics of Health and Disease for her work on protein kinase C, or PKC. Newton’s lab uncovered PKC mutations linked to disease: loss-of-function mutations that can cause cancer and gain-of-function mutations that can drive neurodegenerative disease.

Benning promoted to Distinguished Professor

Christoph Benning, who studies polar lipids in the photosynthetic membrane and their synthesis at Michigan State University, was promoted to Distinguished Professor.

ASBMB 2020 Annual Awards to Lipid Research Division Members

Jean Schaffer, a board-certified cardiologist and researcher affiliated with the Joslin Diabetes Center at Harvard Medical School, won the 2020 Avanti Award in Lipids, which recognizes outstanding research contributions in the area of lipids and includes a $3,000 cash prize. Schaffer is moving her lab to Harvard this month after having led the Diabetic Cardiovascular Disease Center and Diabetes Research Center at Washington University in St. Louis. She is an associate editor for the Journal of Lipid Research, an ASBMB peer-reviewed publication.

Edward Dennis, a distinguished professor at the University of California, San Diego, won the Bert and Natalie Vallee Award in Biomedical Science. The award, which was established by the Bert and N. Kuggie Vallee Foundation in 2012, recognizes international achievements in the sciences basic to medicine and carries a $10,000 cash prize. Dennis is a former chair of UCSD’s chemistry and biochemistry department and has led the faculty senate. He was named a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1984. He served as editor-in-chief for the Journal of Lipid Research, an ASBMB peer-reviewed publication, and is a past winner of the society’s Avanti Award in Lipids.

Jeremy Baskin, an assistant professor at Cornell University, won the Walter Shaw Young Investigator Award in Lipids. The award was established by ASBMB’s Lipid Research Division and recognizes outstanding research contributions in the area of lipids by young investigators who are assistant professors (or equivalent) with no more than 10 years of experience since receiving their degrees (Ph.D. and/or M.D.). It includes a $2,000 cash prize. Baskin in 2017 won the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation’s Beckman Young Investigator Award, which came with a $750,000 research grant.

Zechner elected to National Academy of Sciences

Rudolf Zechner, a professor at the Institute of Molecular Biosciences at the University of Graz in Austria, was recently elected to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences as a foreign associate. Zechner’s research focuses on molecular mechanisms of lipolysis and lipid synthesis in various tissues, both healthy and cancerous.

Coppens elected to American Academy of Microbiology

Isabelle Coppens, a professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, has been elected to the American Academy of Microbiology. Coppens studies how obligate intracellular parasites, like Toxoplasma and Plasmodium, interact with the host, including their dependence on host lipids.

Rock joins American Academy of Microbiology

Charles “Chuck” Rock was one of 109 new fellows elected to the American Academy of Microbiology this January. Rock, a professor in the Infectious Diseases department at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, studies regulation of prokaryotic lipid metabolism.

Hannun and Obeid share Lifetime Achievement Award

The Eicosanoid Research Foundation has announced that Yusuf Hannun and Lina Obeid of Stony Brook University will receive its 2019 Lifetime Achievement Award for their work on ceramide physiology and the role of sphingolipids in aging. The award will be presented at the foundation’s October meeting in St. Petersburg, Florida. Congratulations, sphingolipid pioneers!


Vance’s seminal work recognized in Nature feature

Jean Vance of the University of Alberta in Edmonton stars in a feature article from Nature titled “How secret conversations inside cells are transforming biology.” Vance’s finding that phospholipid synthetic enzymes cluster at contact points between the ER and mitochondria, published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, was an early landmark in studies of communication between organelles.