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In Brief

Benjamin Cravatt Wins ASBMB Merck Award for Outstanding Research

Benjamin Cravatt, chair of the Department of Chemical Physiology and a professor in the Dorris Neuroscience Center and The Skaggs Institute for Chemical Biology at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) has received the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology’s (ASBMB) 2014 Merck Award.

Presented annually since 1981, the award recognizes outstanding contributions to research in biochemistry. Past recipients include two Nobel laureates.

Cravatt’s lab focuses on enzymes, which facilitate every chemical reaction in the body. His results have advanced understanding of basic biology and uncovered an array of targets for drug discovery. For further information on Cravatt’s research, visit his TSRI faculty page or lab website.

Peter Hodder to Co-Lead Study to Find New Cancer Drugs

Peter Hodder, senior director of lead identification at TSRI’s Translational Research Institute in Florida, will act as a co-principal investigator for a new three-year study on potential new cancer therapies.

The project, funded by a $1.4 million grant (1RO1CA178143) from the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health and co-directed by Bruce Clurman of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, will focus on identifying small molecules that restore the function of ubiquitin ligases that are mutated in cancers.

The ubiquitin-proteasome system targets proteins for degradation and controls many biological processes. Disruption of this activity has profound consequences and contributes to many diseases, including cancer, making the system an important therapeutic target.

“We’re contributing the screening to the project to help find new probes for this target,” Hodder said. “We’re expecting to gather an interesting portfolio of candidates and, once that happens, we plan to do some of the drug optimization work at Scripps Florida as well.”

Zhaoming Su Wins Award for ALS Research

Zhaoming Su, research associate in the Disney lab, has been awarded the Milton Safenowitz Post-Doctoral Fellowship for research in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), sponsored by the ALS Association.

The fellowship supports Su’s research in the rational design of drugs to specifically target a genetic defect that is the most common cause of ALS. These studies could provide better understanding of the cause of this devastating disease.

FL Postdoctoral Fellows Win Gordon Conference Poster Competition

Three TSRI postdoctoral fellows—Jeremy Lohman of the Shen lab, and Jakob Fuhrmann and Daniel Slade of the Thompson lab—won the best poster competition at the Gordon Conference on Enzymes Coenzymes and Metabolic Pathways, held July 14-19 in Waterville Valley, New Hampshire.

The week-long Gordon Research Conferences promote discussion and free exchange of ideas at the research frontiers of the biological, chemical and physical sciences. The Waterville Valley conference highlighted the fundamental aspects of enzymology relating to life processes, the molecular level transformations underlying the biosynthesis of various biological entities from proteins to structurally complex small molecule natural products and the frontiers of structural enzymology and drug development.

Energy Alert: Flip the Switch to Off to Cut Costs; Watch for CPP Days

As the summer brings greater promise of hot days, it also raises the likelihood of Critical Peak Pricing (CPP)—which could add approximately $50,000 per day to Scripps California electric bills.

TSRI participates in the San Diego Gas and Electric (SDG&E)-provided CPP program and normally pays a reduced rate of about 12 cents per kilowatt hour of electricity. While to date the program has saved money every year for five years, when weather or other events impact the state’s electric grid, the Public Utilities Commission calls a CPP event and the institute’s per kilowatt hour cost skyrockets to about $1.07. After the tenth CPP event in a year, the institute’s daily electricity bill rises about $50,000 over a non-participating CPP rate for each additional CPP day. Luckily, there have never been more than eight events each year, but the program still relies on the campus community’s responsiveness to reducing energy on high-demand days.

Even as La Jolla may be experiencing cool coastal temperatures, a significant heat wave throughout a large portion of California can cause a CPP event any day of the year.

“It’s especially critical that the TSRI community lowers energy use on CPP days, whatever the weather is outside,” says Herold.

And, on September 1, the impact of energy-efficient habits in TSRI labs and administrative offices will increase significantly when a SDG&E rate hike goes into effect. The increase is expected to raise annual TSRI electricity approximately 12 percent—some $900,000.

Simple energy-saving steps for faculty and staff include turning off non-essential or idled lights and equipment. One measure in particular—closing fume hood sashes when not in use—saves significant electricity costs.

Herold also recommends PIs take stock of their lab’s collection of old, unnecessary or inefficient refrigerators/freezers—another source of costly energy drain. “These units are most often hand-me-downs from previous lab occupants. In their telltale avocado green, harvest gold or rusted appliance-white colors, they date back to pre-energy-efficiency days in Nixon or Reagan eras,” says Herold. “They waste energy on a big scale and are a cost to everyone.”

Career Workshop: Effective Oral Presentations

Skills training in preparing for and delivering effective oral presentations will be offered at a half-day workshop for California postdoctoral fellows and graduate students to be held Tuesday, August 27, from 1 to 5 PM.

Sponsored by the Career and Postdoctoral Services Office, the Graduate Program and the Society of Fellows, the interactive customized workshop will outline a systematic way to prepare and deliver presentations, based on the book Trees, maps, and theorems by Jean-luc Doumont, a communications trainer and speaker. Workshop topics will cover structure, slides, and delivery, as well as stage fright.

An engineer from the Louvain School of Engineering and a PhD in applied physics from Stanford University, Doumont offers training for scientists, engineers and business people in such areas as effective communications, pedagogy and statistical thinking.

Registration is limited and may be made online. Additional details about this workshop and other resources from the Career and Postdoctoral Services Office are available at the department’s website.

CA ScrippsAssists Volunteers Staff Hunger Relief Fundraiser

ScrippsAssists volunteers worked overtime at the recent “Foodtasia” benefit for the Jacobs and Cushman San Diego Food Bank (SDFB). The event raised $141,000 for SDFB hunger relief programs.

Not only did the ScrippsAssists group —including Shirley Sanchez, Tanya Gresham, Cherie Ng, Pam Cryer and son Philip, Nancy Kutner (external), Liam Brown (Steve Brown’s son), Mishelle McClanahan-Shinn and husband Tim Shinn—help with the set-up, check-in/out, silent auction and clean-up, several remained beyond their eight-hour shift to bus tables and serve dessert, filling in for another absent volunteer group.

CA ScrippsAssists to Support Blues Festival for Hunger Relief

Just a few days remain to purchase reduced-priced tickets to the ScrippsAssists-supported San Diego Blues Festival, benefitting the San Diego Food Bank’s food relief programs on Saturday, September 7.
The festival’s advanced $10 per-person ticket price—plus two cans of food—is available until Thursday, August 1, ticket prices then rise to $15 and two cans of food per person. Children 12 and under are free. VIP tickets are $100 per person.
Featuring 10 national and local blues acts on two stages from 11 AM to 8 PM, the music fest will be held at the Embarcadero Marina Park North, adjacent to Seaport Village on the downtown waterfront.
Every $10 festival ticket will provide 30 meals to hungry San Diegans. Some 462,000 impoverished San Diego county residents face food insecurity daily, with little or no food available at home and without resources for their next meal. Nearly 30 percent of those living in poverty are children.
Festival volunteer opportunities are also available. Contact Mishelle McClanahan-Shinn at if interested. For additional festival information visit the event website.

Support Blood Drive on CA Campus August 19

Eligible TSRI staff and faculty are encouraged to participate in a blood drive sponsored by ScrippsAssists and scheduled for Monday, August 19 on the California campus. Donors will help supply the nearly 400 units of blood distributed daily to local hospitals by the San Diego Blood Bank (SDBB).

Donation appointments are available every 10 minutes from 9 AM to 2:30 PM at the bloodmobile, which will be located in front of the MB/Skaggs building (10596 N. Torrey Pines Rd.). Donor eligibility guidelines and requirements are outlined on the SDBB website. Appointments may be made online at the SDBB website. All donors will be entered automatically in a drawing for raffle prizes. For additional information on the blood drive, contact Leslie Madden, ScrippsAssists project organizer, at

CA Campus Invited to SOF Summer Social Events

Summer fun, the lure of the sea or the crack of the bat—California campus TSRI faculty and staff are invited to choose among August social events sponsored by the Society of Fellows (SOF) in August.

Summer Bash – Saturday, August 10

This annual event, free with a TSRI ID, is a joint gathering sponsored by SOF and postdoc associations at the La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology and University of California, San Diego. The fun will last from 8:30 PM to midnight at the Offshore Tavern and Grill, 2253 Morena Blvd., near Mission Bay.

Photo ID proof of age (21 years) will be required; guests are welcome. The first 250 attendees through the door receive a free drink ticket. Drink specials and music from DJ Mikey Beats will be featured throughout the night. Additional information is available on the SOF website.

Deep Sea Fishing – Sunday, August 25

A day on the ocean aboard the 65-foot Sea Watch, fishing for sea bass, barracuda, rockfish and yellowtail, awaits would-be deep-sea anglers. With capacity for 45 participants, the boat leaves from Seaforth Sportsfishing (1717 Quivira Road, San Diego) for Coronado Island at 5:30 AM, returning at 5 PM. The $65 price includes fishing rod rental ($55 without rod rental) and boat trip, Mexican fishing permits, bait, fish filleting and tip for the crew. Since the cost is subsidized partially by SOF, each TSRI attendee is limited to one guest.

To reserve a spot, send a check made payable to "Society of Fellows” with name, email address and guest name to Peter Haberz, mail drop TPC-9, or reserve in person with Jack Scatizzi (IMM-311). Filled on a first-come, first-serve basis, reservations must include payment; email or phone reservations will not be accepted. For further event details, visit the SOF website. Additional information on the Sea Watch is available at

Padres Baseball – Sunday, August 25

What’s more American than Sunday afternoon at the baseball park? SOF has arranged a private picnic area overlooking the bullpens at Petco Park for the San Diego Padres vs. Chicago Cubs game. The $50 per person ticket price—$29 off the regular cost—includes all-you-can-eat Ball Park refreshments and domestic beer and soda. Beverage service starts 12:10 PM; the first pitch is scheduled at 1:10 PM.

Tickets are available from Amanda Ackley in MEM115 with either cash or a check payable to “Society of Fellows.” Payment must accompany reservations; no email or phone reservations are accepted. First-come, first-served until all 36 spots are taken. Contact Ackely at for additional information.

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California Healthcare Institute Visits TSRI
Representatives from the California Healthcare Institute (CHI), a public policy organization for biomedical research and industry, visited TSRI July 16, learning about TSRI’s research programs and importance of government funding. Here, James Voss, a research associate in the Burton lab, chats with CHI’s Erica Hiar (left), director of public relations and communications, and Jenny Carey, associate director of federal government relations and programs.  (Photo by Cindy Brauer.)