News

BMS faculty member Susan Taylor has been awarded the Biochemical Society 2014 Centenary Award

Susan S. Taylor, PhD, professor in the Departments of Pharmacology, Chemistry and Biochemistry, and Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator has been awarded the Biochemical Society 2014 Centenary Award. She will receive the prestigious Centenary Medal and present the award lecture at a Biochemical Society conference next year. The Biochemical Society, based in London, recognizes scientists for excellence and the profound implications that their work has for the research community and wider society. Dr. Taylor is being honored for “her fundamental contributions to understanding the structure and function of protein kinases.”

BMS faculty member Jonathan Lin has been selected recipient of the American Society for Investigative Pathology (ASIP) 2013 Cotran Early Career Investigator Award.

Jonathan H. Lin, MD, PhD, an assistant professor in the Department of Pathology and adjunct assistant professor of Cellular and Molecular Medicine, has been selected recipient of the American Society for Investigative Pathology (ASIP) 2013 Cotran Early Career Investigator Award. The award recognizes an early career investigator of demonstrated excellence, whose research focus is leading to an improved understanding of the conceptual basis of disease. Lin studies the role of the UPR signaling pathways in the pathogenesis of human disease, and also received the ASIP Excellence in Science Award in 2009.

BMS student John Yamauchi who has been awarded Outstanding Graduate Student

June 6, 2012

Outstanding Graduate Student John Yamauchi, Biomedical Sciences John Yamauchi is graduating with a Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences. He is the former Vice President of Campus Affairs for the UC San Diego Graduate Student Association and past CEO of the UC San Diego Entrepreneur Challenge. John is also a Class of 2006 alumnus from Marshall College where he majored in Bioengineering.

John is a researcher, entrepreneur, and community supporter. As CEO of the UCSD Entrepreneur Challenge, John helped establish the student-run business plan competition to encourage teams of science and business students to start technology companies. He helped raise $130,000 to fund the competition's education events and award prizes to the three emerging student companies. To ensure that the challenge lives on at UC San Diego, at the end of his term, John established an Executive Committee of student and campus leaders to work with the current organizing team. Today the Challenge continues to grow and has awarded $250,000 in cash prizes to its 15 winning start-up companies.

John also received a 2009-10 National Science Foundation (NSF) fellowship as a Socrates Scholars through the Science Bridge Program. As a fellow, John partnered with a local Steele Canyon High School teacher to develop engaging classroom activities for biology students. He taught in the classroom once a week and invited his high school students to the UC San Diego labs.

John's nominator, Dean of Graduate Studies, Kim Barrett shared that John has a constant desire to better the community. He uses his leadership skills and talent to pull people into what makes UC San Diego a great place to study and begin your professional experience.

BMS students Kathleen Fitzpatrick and William Sinko receive awards from the San Diego Chapter of ARCS

March 18, 2011

Kathleen Fitzpatrick

Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program
B.S., University of Wisconsin-Madison
Kenneth & Marjorie Blanchard Scholar

Kathleen Fitzpatrick is studying HIV and how the immune system reacts to infection. Her work specifically focuses on understanding the component that can prevent the spread of infection by tethering viruses to the surface of infected cells. HIB contains a factor that disrupts the tethering activity, allowing release and spread of infection. By understanding how the body naturally tries to contain infection, we will understand the potential points of weakness in the viral replication cycle. Kathleen in an avid road cyclist and hopes to complete a century ride in 2011.

William Sinko

As a student in J. Andrew McCammon's lab I am working on finding compounds, which interact with biological targets, and could be developed into antibacterial drugs, or treatments for diabetes. My research focuses on developing new methods to calculate the affinity of small drug-like molecules for biological targets and applying these methods to medically relevant targets. In addition I am using small model systems to develop and test new statistically rigorous methods for the calculation of compound binding affinity. The Achievement Reward for College Scientists will help me to continue my research in this exciting area of drug discovery.

William Gerwick Awarded Chancellor’s Associates Faculty Excellence Award

February 16, 2011

Congratulations to William H. Gerwick, PhD, professor at the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, on being selected for a 2011 Chancellor’s Associates Faculty Excellence Award in Research and Engineering. Candidates are nominated by their academic peers, with final selection by a committee comprising Chancellor’s Associates donors. Criteria for selection are based on faculty member achievements, reputation and impact on students and the academic community. Since 1974, UC San Diego has recognized more than 100 extraordinary faculty members with Chancellor’s Associates Faculty Excellence Awards. He and the other recipients will be recognized and each receive $2,500 on March 31 at a formal presentation.

2010 NSF Graduate Student Fellowship

April 22, 2010

Congratulations to two first year BMS students who have been awarded the pretigious 2010 NSF Graduate Student Fellowship:

Description of Corina's proposal: Recent surveys of the cancer genome have identified a number of mutations in protein kinase C (PKC) family members in human tumors, five of which are in the regulatory domain. I hypothesize that these naturally-occurring mutations alter the membrane binding affinity of PKC, thus altering its kinetics of translocation and activation in a manner that confers a survival advantage to the cell. Consequently, I seek to understand the molecular basis for how natural mutations in PKC dysregulate this key signal transducer’s function through the use of live cell imaging tools and biophysical/biochemical methods.

Description of Kathryn's Proposal:

Neural Progenitor Proliferation and Specification: Implications for Developmental Brain Disorders

Abstract: Neurogenesis comprises a series of symmetric and asymmetric divisions in the ventricular zone (VZ) to generate a pool of progenitors through lateral expansion and differentiated neurons that form the partitioned neocortex. Misregulation of mitosis in neural progenitors has severe phenotypic implications, as demonstrated by the marked decrease in overall brain size displayed by individuals with the neurodevelopmental brain disorder microcephaly (MCPH). It has been determined that integrin signaling is essential for determining mitotic spindle orientation both in vivo and in vitro, and my proposal focuses on understanding how focal adhesion signaling dictates spindle orientation in neural progenitors during cortical development, underlying cell fate specification.

UCSD Graduate Researchers Identify miRNA Targets in C. elegans

January 10, 2010 by Melissa Wilbert

Photo of Yeo lab members

microRNAs are a class of short RNAs (~22nt) that are highly conserved across evolution and important in every aspect of biology. Argonaute proteins guide these small, noncoding RNAs to specific sites on mRNA targets to regulate the expression level of these target genes. Understanding the global patterns of miRNA binding would be a major step forward in understanding human disease and development. To this end, BMS researchers Michael Lovci and Melissa Wilbert of the Yeo lab in the Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine (in a collaboration with the Pasquinelli lab in Biology) characterized the binding sites of the Argonaute protein ALG1 in the model organism C. elegans using a biochemical technique to isolate specific regions of mRNAs that are bound to this Argonaute protein. They found that there are specific patterns of binding for each miRNA and that the regions that miRNAs bind have distinguishing sequence elements.

Two new binding sites discovered on HIV protease: allosteric fragments lay the foundation for the development of a new class of AIDS drug

January 19, 2010 by Alex Perryman

Chemical Biology & Drug Design cover

A team of scientists at The Scripps Research Institute developed a new approach to fragment-based crystallographic screening and discovered two compounds that bind to novel, allosteric sites on the surface of HIV protease. This team led by Associate Prof. C. David Stout included BMS alumnus Alex L. Perryman, Ph.D., a Research Associate in Prof. Arthur J. Olson’s lab and first author of the paper, which will be the cover article of the March, 2010, issue of Chemical Biology & Drug Design. HIV protease is an essential viral enzyme and important drug target for the fight against AIDS, but drug-resistance mutations that destroy the potency of protease inhibitors keep appearing at ever-increasing frequencies. Most of the mutations that cause drug resistance are found within the active site, in the hollow center of the enzyme, which is guarded by two highly mobile flaps. The fragments they identified bind to two different regions of protease (i.e., not the active site). When these allosteric fragments bind to HIV protease, they shift its conformational preferences and stabilize the inhibited, drug-bound conformation of protease, which has closed flaps. The mechanism of resistance for several multi-drug-resistant mutants seems to involve the protease displaying more flap opening behavior and greater flap flexibility. Thus, these fragments don't target the region where the drug resistance mutations are found--they target the dynamic mechanism that some multi-drug-resistant mutants seem to utilize. Instead of putting a new sheath over a pair of scissors that want to stay open, they're trying to restrain the handles to prevent cutting from occurring.

This crystallographic research validated the predictions made by Alex Perryman when he was performing Molecular Dynamics simulations as a BMS graduate student and HHMI predoctoral fellow in the lab of Prof. J. Andrew McCammon, a BMS faculty member and HHMI PI. This discovery lays the structural foundation for the development of a new class of anti-AIDS drugs that should enhance existing therapies, help treat drug-resistant strains of HIV, and potentially impede the evolution of new drug resistance. The new approach to fragment-based crystallographic screening that they invented should also be very useful against drug targets from other diseases, especially when drug-resistant mutants are a problem.

Study from UCSD BMS and Salk labs named #2 Scientific Discovery of 2009

December 8, 2009 by Chloe Rivera

Photo of Bing Ren

In an annual list compiled by TIME magazine, the “Decoding of the Human Epigenome” was named the 2nd most exciting scientific discovery of 2009. Citing a landmark paper in Nature by Joseph Ecker (at the Salk Institute) and BMS faculty member Bing Ren, TIME magazine declares that this discovery “is a giant leap in geneticists' quest to better understand the strange witches' brew of nature and nurture that makes us who we are.”

Recent study from UCSD BMS laboratory strengthens the “hygiene hypothesis”

November 24, 2009 by Andrew Borkowski

Photo: Cover of Nature Medicine

In a recent study published in Nature Medicine, post-doctoral fellow Dr. Yu Ping Lai and BMS faculty member Dr. Richard Gallo show that a product of bacteria living on the skin's surface inhibits excessive inflammation. This study demonstrates the significance of the skin's normal flora and the importance of host-pathogen interactions occurring on the skin’s surface to human health.

BMS Professor Larry Goldstein wins Public Service Award from the American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB)

November 24, 2009 by Anne Conway

Photo of Larry Goldstein

Dr. Larry Goldstein has been honored for his advocacy of public funding for biomedical research, especially the importance of public support for stem cell research. He has spent numerous hours before the media, the California legislature and the U.S. Congress sharing his expertise and advocating for the support of biomedical research. As well as serving as a national leader in promoting stem cell research and policy, Goldstein also had a large role in the promotion of Proposition 71, the $3 billion funding initiative for stem cell research in California.

Field lab uncovers the link between Golgi form and function

October 16, 2009 by Suzette Farber-Katz and Marshall Peterman

BMS faculty member Dr. Seth Field and colleagues have discovered the key components that maintain the distinctive structure of the Golgi apparatus, which has baffled scientists since the organelle was first discovered. In a report published in the journal Cell, co-authored by BMS students Suzette Farber-Katz and Marshall Peterman, Dr. Field's lab used a proteomic lipid binding screen to identify that the protein GOLPH3 binds to phosphatidylinositol-4-phosphate, or PtdIns(4)P, at the Golgi membrane. GOLPH3 also links the Golgi membrane to the actin cytoskeleton by binding to Myosin18A, thereby generating a tensile force that stretches the Golgi into flattened stacks. The interaction between PtdIns(4)P, GOLPH3, and Myosin18A, is required for efficient formation of the tubules and vesicles necessary for transport of cargo leaving the Golgi. Dr. Field is a recipient of the NIH New Innovator Award to support his work in identifying and studying the function of novel lipid binding proteins.

Study discovers a novel molecular marker that could identify patients likely to respond to cancer therapy

September 6, 2009 by Theresa Reno

Photo of David Cheresh

The lab of BMS faculty member David Cheresh has discovered a receptor on the surface of aggressive tumor cells. According to his recent Nature Medicine paper, this receptor activates the Src-kinase, an enzyme whose activation is known to lead to tumor progression. By identifying this receptor, integrin alpha-v beta-3, Cheresh and colleagues have found a molecular signature for the metastatic potential of a tumor cell, which could lead to customized therapies for patients expressing this receptor. Currently, dasatinib, which targets the Src-kinase pathway, is approved for treatment of chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML), but now it may be beneficial to other cancer patients whose tumor cells express the metastatic signature alpha-v beta-3.

Study identifies genetic keys to antibody responses

August 21, 2009 by Robert Johnston

Photo of Shane Crotty

The lab of BMS faculty member Shane Crotty has identified the gene which triggers T cells to provide help to B cells, a key step in the production of disease-fighting antibodies. In a report recently published in Science, Dr. Crotty and colleagues demonstrated that the transcription factor Bcl6 is a master regulator for a subset of CD4+ T cells known as T Follicular Helper cells (TFH), and that TFH are uniquely responsible driving robust antibody responses after an infection or vaccination. They also showed that another transcription factor, Blimp-1, antagonized this process and could effectively shut down antibody production. These findings could aid efforts to improve vaccine design and to suppress autoimmune antibody responses.

Novel gene mutation liked to ciliopathy

August 10, 2009 by Bethany Sotak

Brain scan cross sections

BMS professor Joseph G Gleeson, MD and colleagues found a connection between mutations in the INPP5E gene and ciliopathies. Ciliopathies are an emerging group of diseases caused by defects in the function or structure of primary cilia, small cellular appendages of previously unknown structure. The INPP5E gene encodes an enzyme important in the conversion of phosphatylinositol, one of the most important signaling molecules in the body, and may have important implications in cancer and drug discovery.

Oegema Lab Unlocks Mysteries of Cell Division

May 28, 2009 by Molly Bush

Photo of fluorescence microscopy illustrating gene expression during cell division

Understanding cell division is a fundamental goal of cell biology and may help us understand how to treat cancers where this process has gone awry. Recent work from the Oegema Lab published in Cell (2009) aids us in this understanding. Using the C. elegans embryo, they show that despite the progressive decrease in cell size, the duration of cell division remains constant during early embryogenesis. This is because the contractile ring, the machine that pinches the two cells apart during cell division, closes at a constant rate proportional to initial perimeter of the cell. The authors propose a model that explains how the ring is able to know how big it is in order to know the rate at which it will close.

UCSD BMS faculty Adam Engler Highlights the “Touchy Feely” Properties of Life

April 10, 2009 by Eleen Shum

Photo of Adam Engler

BMS faculty member Adam Engler recently published in the journal Science a review discussing the importance of force-dependent modules that regulate form and function in life. The emergence of cellular adhesion is an evolutionary advantage that likely paved way for formation of complex organisms. Dr. Engler also described a universal need for organisms to respond to forces. For example, our unique cylindrical bone structure is tailored to support body weight while being very light. Dr. Engler is also a recipient of the 2009 NIH New Innovator Award to develop “smart materials” for cell-based regenerative therapies.

BMS Faculty Roger Tsien wins 2008 Nobel Prize in Chemistry

October 8, 2008 by Kristyn Feldman

Photo of Roger Tsien being interviewed

Esteemed BMS faculty member Roger Tsien was awarded the 2008 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the “discovery and development of the green fluorescent protein, GFP.” Photo: Bacteria expressing 8 differently colored fluorescing proteins are used to paint a beach sunset on a petri dishDr. Tsien shares this prestigious award with two other scientists: Osamu Shimomura of the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole and Boston University School of Medicine, and Martin Chalfie of Columbia University in New York. The discovery and development of GFP as a tool for scientific research has paved the way for innumerable advances across many fields of modern science.