Two TSRI Faculty Win Prestigious Cell Biology Awards

Two young faculty members at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI)—Assistant Professor Clare Waterman-Storer and Associate Professor Benjamin Cravatt—are being honored with early career recognition awards sponsored by the American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB), one of the largest professional member organizations in the field.

Waterman-Storer won the 2002 Women in Cell Biology (WICB) Career Recognition Award.

"It is really a great honor to get this award," she says, "and I am fully indebted to the excellent mentors I have had in my training and here at Scripps.

"Several of my scientific 'heroes' have received the WICB award and gone on to be excellent leaders and do such great basic cell biology," says Waterman-Storer. "It is exciting to think that I could be following in those footsteps."

Waterman-Storer was nominated by Professor Sandra Schmid, who is chair of the Department of Cell Biology and the 1990 recipient of the WICB Career Recognition Award.

"I am extremely impressed with [Clare's accomplishments at Scripps]" says Schmid. "[They] demonstrate Clare's ability to carry her research from precise and insightful quantitative observation of cellular phenomena to identification of the molecular bases for these phenomena."

Waterman-Storer won the 2002 WICB Career Recognition Award for her work studying the molecules that are involved with cell motility—such as microtubules, actin, and all the proteins responsible for regulating them. In particular, she is interested in the structural and regulatory interactions between actin and microtubules—how they touch and move each other, how they interact during the control of motility, and how those interactions impact such diverse areas as cancer, wound healing, and early embryonic development.

Cravatt won the fourth annual ASCB-Promega Award for Early Career Life Scientists for "his research with fatty acid amides in cellular and organismal biology."

In particular, Cravatt has spent several years characterizing fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH), a membrane-bound enzyme that metabolizes small molecules, including endocannabinoids—endogenous molecules that provide some natural relief when you feel pain.

FAAH is a target for pain therapy not only because it breaks down the molecules that provide the pain relief but also because it turns out that FAAH seems to be the only enzyme responsible for doing so. In FAAH, Cravatt has been looking to exploit the molecular signaling pathways that the body uses when it senses pain in order to come up with selective targets that can be used to treat clinical problems.

"Ben has demonstrated the remarkable ability to apply multiple techniques to probe mechanism through structure, chemistry, and physiology with already outstanding success," says Schmid.

Cravatt trained in both chemistry and biology at TSRI, graduating from the Macromolecular and Cellular Structure and Chemistry Program in 1996, and he is a member of the Department of Cell Biology, the Department of Chemistry, and The Skaggs Institute for Chemical Biology.

"Everything our laboratory does involves a lot of chemistry," says Cravatt. "It's nice that the outcomes of our experiments are appreciated by biologists."

Both awards will be presented at the ACBS annual meeting in San Francisco on December 17, 2002.




Assistant Professor Clare Waterman-Storer is the recipient of the 2002 Women in Cell Biology Career Recognition Award.

Associate Professor Benjamin Cravatt has won the fourth annual American Society for Cell Biology-Promega Award for Early Career Life Scientists.