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The Scripps Research Institute Recruits Prominent Scientists to Join its Ranks

La Jolla, CA. November 10, 1997 -- The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) has recruited a number of prominent scientists to its staff, all of whom will hold dual appointments in The Skaggs Institute for Chemical Biology as well as in other institutional departments. According to TSRI President Richard A. Lerner, M.D., "We are fortunate to have attracted researchers of the caliber of the four who have recently joined us. Their expertise will add significantly to the depth and scope of the scientific activities at the Institute."

They are Paul Schimmel, Ph.D., former John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Jeffery W. Kelly, Ph.D., former Professor, Department of Chemistry, Texas A&M; Martha J. Fedor, Ph.D., former Assistant Professor, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Massachusetts Medical Center; and James R. Williamson, Ph.D., former Associate Professor, Department of Chemistry, MIT.

Professor in The Skaggs Institute for Chemical Biology and the Department of Molecular Biology, Schimmel's major research activities have concentrated on the decoding of genetic information, with emphasis on the rules of the universal genetic code which are established through aminoacylation reactions catalyzed by a group of enzymes known as aminoacyl tRNA synthetases. The latter are believed by many to be among the first enzymes to arise on this planet in the early stages of the evolution of life forms. His laboratory uncovered an operational RNA code for amino acids which relates specific sequences/structures in small RNA oligonucleotides to specific aminoacylations. He and his coworkers were among the first to establish the modular design of aminoacyl tRNA synthetases. He later showed how this design relates to the operational RNA code and its relationship to the genetic code. Most recently he showed that a novel module in certain synthetases acts in concert with transfer RNA to enhance the accuracy of the genetic code by an error correction mechanism.

A member of the National Academy of Sciences, Schimmel is the author or co-author of many scientific papers and of a widely used three-volume textbook on biophysical chemistry. He was named to the American Chemical Society's Pfizer Award in Enzyme Chemistry, and was elected to membership in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He has been active in many scientific and academic organizations and committees, including service as Chairman of the Division of Biological Chemistry of the American Chemical Society and as an editorial board member of ten different scientific journals. Having a longstanding interest in the applications of basic biomedical research to human health, Schimmel holds several patents and is a co-founder of four biotechnology companies. These companies are developing new therapies for human diseases and disorders. Schimmel is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and holds a Ph.D. from Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Jeffery W. Kelly, Ph.D., Lita Annenberg Hazen Professor of Chemistry, is an expert in the structure of amyloid peptides and the dynamics of their aggregation as they relate to amyloid diseases, including Alzheimer's. By engineering compounds that could bind selectively to the amyloid proteins and block others from binding, Kelly and others hope to develop a compound that could stop the dense plaque formation found in the brains of Alzheimer's patients. The author of numerous scientific publications, Kelly has received many honors for his work, including the Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award, Searle Scholar Award, and the Texas A&M University Honors Program Teacher/Scholar Award, the American Chemical Society Rohm and Haas Organic Division Fellowship, and the American Chemical Society North Carolina Centennial Scholarship. He received an undergraduate degree at the State University of New York College at Fredonia, and Ph.D. in organic chemistry from the University of North Carolina. He completed postdoctoral training at The Rockefeller University.

Martha J. Fedor, Ph.D., Associate Professor in The Skaggs Institute for Chemical Biology and the Department of Molecular Biology, works primarily in the area of structure and function of catalytic RNA. A graduate of the University of Michigan, she received a Ph.D. in molecular biology from the University of California, Berkeley. Prior to her appointment to TSRI's staff, Fedor was an Assistant Professor at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center. Honors include the Leukemia Society of America Postdoctoral Fellowship and the Bank of America Giannini Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship.

The research interests of James R. Williamson, Ph.D., Professor, The Skaggs Institute for Chemical Biology and the Department of Molecular Biology, focus on RNA structure determination using multinuclear NMR spectroscopy. A former Associate Professor in the Department of Chemistry at MIT, Williamson has received numerous awards and honors, including the Pfizer-Laubach Career Development Professorship, Searle Scholar Award, Rita Allen Scholar Award, Alfred P. Sloan Fellowship, and the Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award. He has a B.S. in chemistry from Mount Union College, and a Ph.D. in organic chemistry from Stanford University. Additional research activities include nucleic acid chemistry, kinetics of RNA folding, RNA-protein interactions, and interaction of ribosomal proteins with rRNA.

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