BALTIMORE, MD – The Protein Society, the premiere international society dedicated to supporting protein research, announces the winners of the 2016 Protein Society Awards. The awards will be conferred at the 30th Anniversary Symposium of the Protein Society (July 16-19, 2016, Baltimore, Maryland USA). Plenary talks from each recipient are scheduled throughout the 3.5 day event.
The Carl Branden Award: Dr. Gary Pielak
The Carl Branden Award, sponsored by Rigaku Corporation, honors an outstanding protein scientist who has also made exceptional contributions in the areas of education and/or service to the field. The 2016 recipient of this award is Dr. Gary Pielak (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill). Dr. Pielak is a long-standing member of the Protein Society and has served as conference organizer twice. The former Rotating Program Director of the National Science Foundation has advanced the field of protein chemistry through pioneering research in unraveling protein biophysics in living cells. Dr. Pielak and his students developed innovative quantitative techniques to measure protein stability and diffusion in crowded samples that interfere with standard measurement techniques. He has also made major advances in elucidating how the intracellular environment impacts both globular and intrinsically disordered proteins in surprising ways. Dr. Pielak has revolutionized our understanding of how proteins work where they actually function — inside cells –, and not in the artificial environment of the test tube.
The Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin Award: Dr. Rachel Klevit
The Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin Award, sponsored by Genentech, is granted in recognition of exceptional contributions in protein science which profoundly influence our understanding of biology. The 2016 award will be presented to Dr. Rachel Klevit (University of Washington). Dr. Klevit's research contributions have made a profound impact on the way we understand very important aspects of biological chemistry including how phosphorylation alters protein activity, regulation of transcription, and ubiquitylation. From the first structures of a zinc-finger and the RING E3 ubiquitin ligase BRCA1, Dr. Klevit has pushed NMR spectroscopy to establish new paradigms. Her research has been instrumental in understanding the mechanism of disease of two scourges, breast cancer and Parkinson's Disease. Moreover, she has changed the way research in this area is done. She is an exceptional mentor of younger scientists and wonderful role model for other scientists and educators at all stages of their careers.
The Hans Neurath Award: Dr. H. Eric Xu
The Hans Neurath Award, sponsored by The Neurath Foundation, seeks to honor individuals who have made a recent contribution of exceptional merit to basic protein research. In 2016, the Hans Neurath winner is Dr. H. Eric Xu (Van Andel Research Institute). Dr. Xu established and served as the distinguished Director of the VARI-SIMM Center for Drug Discovery at Shanghai Institute of Materia (SIMM) of Chinese Academy of Sciences. Research in his group has previously been supported by four NIH R01 grants, one Senior Investigator Award from American Asthma Foundation, and one past DOD prostate cancer idea development award, which cover structures and drug discovery of nuclear hormone receptors, hepatocyte growth factor and its receptor Met tyrosine kinase, G-protein coupled receptors, and plant hormones. Two of his research papers on plant hormones were selected as top ten breakthroughs by Science in 2009 and by Chinese Academy of Sciences in 2014, and his recent X-ray laser structure of the first GPCR-arrestin complex was also selected as a top 10 breakthrough by Chinese Academy of Sciences in 2016.
The Christian B. Anfinsen Award: Dr. Andreas Plückthun
The Christian B. Anfinsen Award, sponsored by The Protein Society, recognizes technological achievement or significant methodological advances in the field of protein science. The recipient of this award in 2016 is Dr. Andreas Plückthun (University of Zurich). Dr. Plückthun is a pioneer of protein engineering. By combining rigorous biophysical studies with the invention of new combinatorial and evolutionary technologies, he has advanced both basic and applied science. His research greatly contributed to enabling the emergence of antibody engineering, by the use of E. coli as an engineering platform and studies on synthetic antibodies which led to the first fully synthetic antibody library. To create a true in vitro protein evolution technology he developed ribosome display of whole proteins. Through his work, designed ankyrin repeat proteins (DARPins) were created as a robust alternative scaffold for binding proteins. Innovative directed evolution technologies have led to highly stable G protein-coupled receptors that can be used for structural studies and in drug screening. Several engineered therapeutics, developed on the basis of his research, are now in late phase clinical development.
The Emil Thomas Kaiser Award: Dr. Charles S. Craik
The Emil Thomas Kaiser Award recognizes a recent, highly significant contribution to the application of chemistry in the study of proteins. The 2016 recipient is Dr. Charles S. Craik (University of California, San Francisco). Dr. Craik is the founder and director of the Chemistry and Chemical Biology Graduate Program. His research interests focus on defining the roles and the mechanisms of enzymes in complex biological processes and on developing technologies to facilitate these studies. He is also founder of Catalyst Biosciences, a biotechnology company focused on therapeutic proteases. The current research in the Craik lab focuses on the chemical biology of proteolytic enzymes, their receptors and their natural inhibitors. A particular emphasis of his work is on identifying the roles and regulating the activity of proteases and degradative enzyme complexes associated with infectious diseases and cancer. These studies coupled with his global substrate profiling and noninvasive imaging efforts are providing a better understanding of both the chemical make-up and the biological importance of these critical proteins to aid in the rapid detection, monitoring and control of infectious disease and cancer.
The Stein and Moore Award: Dr. Jane Clarke
The Stein and Moore Award is named for Nobel laureates Dr. William Stein and Dr. Stanford Moore. The award venerates eminent leaders in protein science who have made sustained, high impact research contributions to the field. The 2016 recipient is Dr. Jane Clarke (University of Cambridge, UK). Dr. Clarke is Professor of Molecular Biophysics in the Chemistry Department of the University of Cambridge. Her research is multidisciplinary, combining single molecule and ensemble biophysical techniques with protein engineering and simulations to investigate protein folding, misfolding, and assembly. In her role as Deputy Head of the Chemistry Department in Cambridge, Dr. Clarke became involved in mentoring, career development, and leadership training for scientists at all stages in their careers.
The Protein Science Young Investigator Award: Dr. Benjamin Garcia
The Protein Science Young Investigator Award, named for the academic journal of the Society, Recognizes a scientist generally within the first 8 years of an independent career who has made an important contribution to the study of proteins. The 2016 winner is Dr. Benjamin Garcia (University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine). Dr. Garcia has been developing analytical and computational tools to understand the combinatorial complexity of simultaneously occurring histone modifications, identifying thousands of uniquely modified histone H3 forms, the significance of which is the focus of current research interest (e.g. combinatorial Histone Code). He also been involved in development of advanced mass spectrometry instrumental approaches using electron transfer dissociation and data-independent acquisition to increase the accuracy and precision for protein and proteome characterization. The Garcia lab has been developing and applying novel mass spectrometry based proteomic approaches for interrogating protein post-translational modifications (PTMs), especially those involved in epigenetic mechanisms such as histones, publishing over 170 publications.