Vol 11. Issue 20 / June 20, 2011



Bruce Beutler Wins Shaw Prize for Immune Discoveries
Bruce A. Beutler, chair of the Department of Genetics at The Scripps Research Institute, has been awarded a 2011 Shaw Prize in Life Science and Medicine, for "discovery of the molecular mechanism of innate immunity, the first line of defense against pathogens." Beutler shares the $1 million prize with Jules A. Hoffmann of the University of Strasbourg (France), and Ruslan M. Medzhitov, the David W. Wallace Professor of Immunobiology at Yale University.

Established by Chinese film and television industry leader Run Run Shaw in Hong Kong in 2002, the Shaw Prize honors individuals who have achieved significant breakthroughs in academic and scientific research or application and whose work has resulted in a positive and profound impact on humankind.

A member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Medicine, Beutler determined how innate immune system cells detect a potentially invasive microorganism present in the body. The same system that provides awareness of infection may sometimes drive inflammatory or autoimmune diseases such as systemic lupus erythematosus. Beutler, who holds a B.A. from the University of California, San Diego, and an M.D. from the University of Chicago, has spearheaded the use of a technique called "forward genetics" to study genes used by the mammalian innate immune system to clear pathogens from the body.

Shaw prizes are awarded each year in the fields of astronomy, mathematical sciences, and life science and medicine. Beutler, Hoffmann, and Medzhitov will receive the 2011 Shaw Award in Life Sciences and Medicine at a ceremony at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre on September 28.

Philip E. Dawson Named 2011 Max-Bergmann Medalist
Phil Dawson, Associate Professor of Chemistry and Cell Biology at the Scripps Research Institute has been awarded the 2011 Max Bergmann Medal. The award is presented annually by the Max-Bergmann-Society, a European-based organization of German, Swiss, and Austrian chemists, which seeks to promote peptide research with special emphasis on chemical methodologies.

According to group's announcement, Dawson is recognized for his outstanding contributions to the field of chemical protein synthesis through the development of chemoselective peptide ligation methods. The Dawson lab has used these protein engineering tools to address fundamental questions in protein folding, stability, and catalysis, to develop HIV vaccine candidates, and to engineer targeted nanoparticle imaging agents.

Dawson will accept the medal and present a lecture at theMax-Bergmann-Society's annual meeting, October 9-12 in Irsee, Germany.

Eros Lazzerini Denchi Named Pew Scholar in the BioMedical Sciences
Scripps Research Assistant Professor Eros Lazzerini Denchi has been named a 2011 Pew Scholar in the Biomedical Sciences by the Pew Charitable Trusts. Recipients of the rigorously competitive award for early career scientists receive $240,000 over four years to pursue their research without restriction.

"Pew is pleased to provide this country's most ambitious and dedicated scientists with timely funding that enables them to explore novel areas of investigation early in their careers, at what may be the most inventive and creative period in their research," said Rebecca W. Rimel, president and CEO of The Pew Charitable Trusts.

The award announcement cited Denchi's work in examining how chromosomal uncapping can contribute to aging and disease, which "should provide new insight into the aging process and may lead to identification of new targets for mitigating the diseases that accompany aging, including the development of tumors such as colon cancer."

Established in 1985, the Pew Scholars program aims to encourage early career scientists to advance research that leads to important medical breakthroughs and treatments. The ranks of previously awarded Pew Scholars include scientists subsequently named MacArthur Fellows, Albert Lasker Medical Research Award recipients, and Nobel Prize winners.

Tatiana Domitrovic Named Pew Latin American Fellow
Tatiana Domitrovic, research associate in the Johnson lab, has been honored as a 2011 Pew Latin American Fellow in the Biomedical Sciences.

This prestigious program provides salary support over two years for postdoctoral level scientists to work with leading researchers in the United States. Upon returning to Latin America, fellows receive additional funds to purchase essential equipment in order to establish research laboratories and promote scientific advancement in their home countries. The Pew Fellows Latin American Fellows program was launched in 1991 to help develop and advance the scientific work of young, highly-trained researchers and to foster collaboration between scientists in Latin America and the United States.

Domitrovic, a Brazil native, is one of 10 young scientists from five Latin American countries honored with the award this year. Domitrovic's research with the nudaurelia capensis omega virus is directed at understanding the mechanism by which non-enveloped viruses breach host membranes.

Francisco Garcia Receives Carl Storm Award from Gordon Research Conferences
Francisco Garcia, graduate student in the Carroll lab, has received the Carl Storm Underrepresented Minority Fellowship, presented by Gordon Research Conferences (GRC), a scientific community nonprofit group providing international forums for research presentations and discussions.

The award funds attendance of underrepresented minority graduate students, postdocs, faculty, and scientists at their first GRC. Garcia will attend the 2011 High Throughput Chemistry & Chemical Biology GRC at Colby-Sawyer College in New London, NH, June 19-24.

Scripps Research Captures First Place in Bike-to-Work Challenge
In their first attempt in the annual competition, California campus cyclists captured first place in their category in the Bike-to-Work Month Corporate Challenge, sponsored by the San Diego Association of Governments, the Tri-City Wellness Center, iCommute, and other local partners. Throughout the month of May, 62 participants from Scripps Research logged miles travelled to work via alternative transportation to the iCommute website. Alternative transportation included non-single occupancy vehicle travel, such as bicycling, car pools, and bus or train.

The Scripps Research group was declared the winner in the macro category (2,501+ employees), one of five categories. According to iCommute statistics, institute participants commuting to work during May cycled more than 3,725 miles, carpooled 625 miles, and traveled by mass transit nearly 275 miles. The alternative transportation agency estimates Scripps Research participants saved a total of nearly $2,800 in commuting costs for the month.

Scripps Research participation in the Corporate Challenge was part of a Bike-to-Work campaign organized by Green Team and Students for Sustainability Initiative (SSI) members. The groups aimed to raise awareness about cycling to work and other sustainable commuting options, said Katie Petrie, SSI member and organizer of the institute's corporate challenge effort.

"We hope that [Scripps Research participants] enjoyed it enough to continue commuting by bike instead of driving at least some days a week the rest of the year," said Petrie, a grad student in the Joyce lab. She recommended the iCommute website as a resource on sustainable commuting, including carpooling and mass transit guides.

bikeSeveral Scripps Research Bike-to-Work Corporate Challenge participants gathered for a group photo to celebrate their first-place win. The group cycled more than 3,725 miles while commuting to work during May. (Photo by Cindy Brauer.)