Vol 9. Issue 37 / December 7, 2009


Scientists Receive Grant to Develop New Technologies to Monitor Protein Folding
A team at The Scripps Research Institute will receive $1 million from the National Institute on Aging, part of the National Institutes of Health, to fund studies to better understand the causes of protein misfolding—when a protein is either not formed correctly or damaged afterwards—that lead to age-related disease. The new grant was made possible through American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding.

The Scripps Research team, led by Professor William Balch, Chair of the Department of Molecular and Experimental Medicine Jeffery Kelly, and Assistant Professor Luke Wiseman, will coordinate with colleagues at Northwestern University and the Salk Institute in the design, testing, and use of tools (biosensors) to follow protein folding and misfolding in cells and to monitor aging and age-related disease.

The funding will also support the development of the Proteostasis Aging Sensor Consortium comprised of five investigators—Balch, Kelly, Wiseman, Northwestern University's Richard Morimoto, and the Salk Institute's Andrew Dillin.

Gerald Joyce Wins Dannie Heineman Prize
Scripps Research Institute Professor and Dean of the Faculty Gerald Joyce has been awarded the Dannie Heineman Prize (Dannie-Deineman-Preis) from the Göttingen Academy of Sciences (Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Göttingen), the second oldest of seven academies in Germany. Joyce was recognized for his work on self-sustained replication of an RNA enzyme. In his research program, Joyce studies the test-tube evolution of RNA and DNA enzymes, both to explore their potential biomedical applications and to examine their possible role in the early history of life on Earth.

He received the award in Germany on November 21 during a formal gathering of the academy commemorating its establishment in 1751.

Changchun Xiao Awarded Lupus Research Institute Grant
Scripps Research Assistant Professor Changchun Xiao has been selected to receive a Lupus Research Institute grant based on his proposal's creativity, novelty, and potential to drive scientific discovery to ultimately prevent, treat, and cure systemic lupus, a chronic and potentially fatal autoimmune disorder. His project is titled, "Functional Analysis of MicroRNAs in Systemic Immune Tolerance." In general, Xiao's research focuses on the functions of microRNA control and its underlying molecular mechanisms in the mammalian immune system, under health and disease conditions.

Scripps Research Papers Highlighted
A paper by the Scripps Research Finn lab was selected as a "Very Important Paper" by the journal Angewandte Chemie, a distinction bestowed on less than five percent of its publications. The study, "Analysis and Optimization of Copper-Catalyzed Azide-Alkyne Cycloaddition for Bioconjugation," by Hong et al. (published online November 26, 2009, DOI 10.1002/anie.200905087) describes the best way to apply click chemistry to biological molecules. The Finn lab has already been contacted about the findings by more than two dozen research groups around the world.

A paper by the Scripps Research John Griffin lab and collaborators at the University of Rochester and the University of California, San Diego, was highlighted in a Journal of Clinical Investigation editorial, The APCs of Neuroprotection." In the paper, "Activated protein C therapy slows ALS-like disease in mice by transcriptionally inhibiting SOD1 in motor neurons and microglia cells," by Zhong et al. (Journal of Clinical Investigation, 119(11): 3437-3449 (2009)), the team showed that "activated protein C" (APC), delays onset of symptoms and time of death in a murine model of Lou Gehrig's disease (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis). Mechanisms for APC's beneficial actions included reducing damage to motor neurons.

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