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Sandra L. Schmid, Ph.D., Named to Head TSRI's Department of Cell Biology

La Jolla, CA. June 1, 2000 Professor Sandra L. Schmid, Ph.D., The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI), has been named Chairman of the Department of Cell Biology, effective July 1, 2000, according to Richard A. Lerner, M.D., TSRI President. She will replace Norton B. Gilula, Ph.D., current Department Chairman and Dean of Graduate Studies. While he will continue to head the graduate program, he also recently was named Vice President, Scientific Affairs.

Lerner commented, "Since her appointment to the Institute's faculty more than 10 years ago, Dr. Schmid has distinguished herself as an outstanding scientist whose work is widely respected in the international scientific community. We are confident of her abilities to lead the Department of Cell Biology in the post-genomic era as its members are poised to make important contributions to the body of scientific knowledge."

Schmid received a B.Sc. with first class honors from the University of British Columbia and a Ph.D. in biochemistry from Stanford University in 1985. She completed a postdoctoral fellowship in cell biology at Yale University and was appointed to TSRI's faculty in the Department of Cell Biology in 1988. She became a full professor in the department in January, 2000.

She is the recipient of a University of British Columbia Undergraduate Medical Research Grant; Helen Hay Whitney Postdoctoral Fellowship; Lucille P. Markey Scholarship in Biomedical Research; American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB) Women in Cell Biology, Junior Career Recognition Award; American Heart Established Investigator Award; and a National Institutes of Health Merit Award.

Schmid has played an active role in scientific affairs at a national level, serving as a member of the American Society for Cell Biology; member of the ASCB Steering Committee on Women in Cell Biology; member of the ASCB Nominating Committee; ad hoc member of the American Cancer Society Cell Biology Advisory Committee; ad hoc member of the Molecular Cytology Study Section, NIH; member of the California ACS Postdoctoral Fellowship Review Committee; and a member of the CDF4 Study Section, NIH. Further, she has served or is currently serving on a number of scientific editorial boards, including The Journal of Cell Biology, Trends in Cell Biology, The FASEB Journal, and is a founding co-editor of Traffic: The International Journal of Intracellular Trafficking.

Schmid's work focuses on endocytosis, an uptake mechanism that allows cells to ingest various substances including nutrients, growth factors, viruses and toxins. She has determined how clathrin, the major coat protein, assembles into baskets and purifies a cell protein that releases clathrin from coated vesicles after they have formed. She also developed new methods to isolate endosomes -- endocytotic vesicles derived from the plasma membrane -- and defined them biochemically. Her laboratory has developed the technology to recreate each of the steps leading to endocytosis in the test tube, allowing them to identify the cellular machinery that carries them out and to reveal how it works.

Schmid and her colleagues also have discovered that another protein, dynamin, plays a key role in releasing the vesicles from the cell membrane. They have created mutant forms of dynamin that can either speed up or bring the process of endocytosis to a complete stop. By so doing, they have discovered the master regulator molecule and are learning the hierarchy of interactions in this remarkably complex process.

The practical possibilities of controlling cellular uptake through dynamin are far-reaching. Once completely understood, it might be possible to block the uptake of viruses and toxins into the cell. Speeding up endocytosis helps to turn off signaling receptors that trigger uncontrolled cell growth, as occurs in cancer. Alternatively, after a procedure such as angioplasty, it might be possible to slow down the regeneration of smooth muscle cells in the arterial wall by clearing signaling receptors from the cell surface.

Schmid is the author of more than 78 scientific papers in major national and international research publications.

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