The Protein Society, the premiere international society dedicated to supporting protein research, announces the winners of The 2015 Protein Society Awards. The awards will be conferred at the 29th Annual Symposium of The Protein Society (July 22-25, 2015, Barcelona, Spain). Plenary talks from each recipient are scheduled throughout the 3.5 day event.
The Carl Brändén 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 2015 recipient of this award is Dr. C. Robert Matthews (University of Massachusetts Medical School). Dr. Matthews has been a pioneer and innovator in developing and applying methods for elucidation of protein folding mechanisms, providing seminal insight into the coupling between folding and function. His body of work includes the introduction of the chevron plot and among the first applications of site-directed mutagenesis in folding studies. Results from his studies of the energetics and kinetics of protein folding pathways have provided the basis for fundamental concepts such as parallel pathways and off-pathway intermediates. Moreover, his service to the community of protein scientists has been exceptional. Among many contributions, he has served among the leadership of FASEB and ASBMB, served on the Molecular Biophysics NIH study section for five years (acting as Chair for the last two), served three years on the NIH Review Panel for Molecular Biophysics, co-founded the Protein Folding Consortium, has contributed editorially to multiple journals, and has held several positions of leadership within the Protein Society, including his service as President from 2003 to 2005.
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 2015 award will be presented to Dr. Eva Nogales (University of California, Berkeley / HHMI). Dr. Nogales has played a central role in the development and implementation of electron crystallography and single particle electron microscopy reconstruction, as well as innovative sample preparative methods, which have contributed to the stunning trajectory of EM methods as a primary tool in structural biology. Her work has provided, among other accomplishments, the solution of the structure of the tubulin and its physiological polymer, the microtubule, the first complete subunit architecture of the proteosome, and the structure of the human transcription pre-initiation complex. Her elucidation of the supermolecular architecture of cellular structures and large multiprotein complexes has provided the kind of high impact molecular-level insights connected to biological function that well-befit the memory of the revered namesake of this award.
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 2015, the Hans Neurath recipient is Dr. Marina Rodnina (Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry Göttingen). Dr. Rodnina has made many groundbreaking discoveries regarding the complex process of protein synthesis by ribosomes. These include advancing our understanding of the fidelity of the information flow during translation, including decoding and recoding of the mRNA, elucidating the mechanisms of translational GTPases, revealing the RNA-based chemistry at the catalytic site of the ribosome, conceptualization of the movements taking place within the molecular machine, and illuminating the evolution and adaptation of the translational apparatus. Key to her success has been an exceptionally careful biochemical approach combined with quantitative biophysical and structural methods, which makes her research truly unique for a molecular machine of such high complexity.
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 2015 is Dr. Sachdev Sidhu (University of Toronto). Dr. Sidhu has advanced the field of protein engineering through pioneering advancement of phage display technology, creation and deployment of highly designed synthetic human antibody libraries, engineering ubiquitin to create tools for studying and manipulating the ubiquitin system, and a number of other groundbreaking approaches. Dr. Sidhu's work has led to significant technological advances in protein engineering, enabling development of cutting-edge basic research reagents and therapeutic candidates that will ultimately help to both decipher mechanisms of protein function and to provide new avenues of disease treatment.
The Emil Thomas Kaiser Award, sponsored The Protein Society, recognizes a recent, highly significant contribution to the application of chemistry in the study of proteins. The 2015 winner is Dr. Anna Mapp (University of Michigan). Dr. Mapp uses innovative chemical biology in which insight into protein-protein interactions is used to inspire the design, synthesis, and screening of small molecules that can then be used to modulate those interactions to provide molecular-level insight into how genes are regulated at the transcriptional level. Her work has captured the molecular detail of transcriptional activators interacting with the transcriptional machinery in vivo, defining the resulting complexes kinetically and thermodynamically, work that is regarded as a landmark accomplishment. Small molecules developed in her pioneering work are deployed not only as mechanistic probes, but also as first-generation, transcription-targeted therapeutics. Her research provides a quintessential example of successful scientific reductionism--distilling a complex biological problem into the realm of chemistry.
The Stein & Moore Award, sponsored by The Protein Society, is named for Nobel laureates Dr. William Stein and Dr. Stanford Moore. The award is given to recognize eminent leaders in protein science who have made sustained high impact research contributions to the field. The 2015 recipient is Dr. William DeGrado (University of California, San Francisco). Dr. DeGrado's bold body of work spanning decades has taught us that proteins can be rationally designed in a staged modular manner based on simple chemical and conformational principles, and that both de novo and biologically-inspired functional elements can also be installed. His work has also taught us the pitfalls in rational design, and has provided a battery of biophysical and biochemical methods that can be powerfully applied to validate and understand the structure of these designs. His pioneering work has shown that simple chemical principles can be rationally applied to highly complex systems to both understand them and create new materials and potential therapeutics. His impact on the field of protein science can hardly be overestimated.
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 2015 winner is Dr. Nieng Yan (School of Medicine at Tsinghua University / HHMI). Dr. Yan's independent track record of accomplishment in membrane protein (and other) structural biology spans less than a decade but is nothing less than stunning. She has contributed a number of important crystal structures of transporters, including the landmark human GLUT1. Her impact extends into the ion channels field, where she had contributed major structures of sodium channels. Most recently, she has used new-generation EM methods to determine a high resolution structure of the ryanodine receptor. Her work is characterized not only by the pursuit targets that can be described as "high hanging fruit", but also by being thoroughly anchored by focusing on how protein structural information can be employed to illuminate protein function and related biology.