News Release 

The Protein Society announces its 2021 award recipients

The Protein Society

Award Announcement

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Credit: The Protein Society

The Protein Society, the premier international society dedicated to supporting protein research, announces the winners of the 2021 Protein Society Awards, which will be conferred at the 35th Anniversary Symposium (virtual), July 7 - 14, 2021. Plenary talks from award recipients will take place throughout the 6-day event. The winners' scientific accomplishments, highlighted here as described by their nominators, demonstrate their substantial and lasting impact on protein science.

The Carl Brändén Award, sponsored by Rigaku Corporation, honors an outstanding protein scientist who has also made exceptional contributions in the areas of education and/or service to the field. The 2021 recipient of this award is Professor Sheila Jaswal (Amherst College). Professor Jaswal is an expert on kinetic and thermodynamic mechanisms for protein stabilization and an award-winning teacher. With a team of undergraduates, she has developed tools to better understand the diversity of protein folding kinetics and provided a theoretical framework for mapping energy landscapes under native conditions using hydrogen-exchange mass spectrometry. In response to a 2015 campus-wide Black Lives Matter protest, she collaborated with students to develop "Being Human in STEM" (HSTEM). In this moment of unprecedented recognition of racism in science, the HSTEM model offers a structure that welcomes participants in their complex intersecting identities, educates them about racism, and gives them practice with having difficult conversations, collaborating across differences, and making realistic and effective change.

The Christian B. Anfinsen Award, sponsored by The Protein Society, recognizes technological achievement or significant methodological advances in the field of protein science. The recipient of this award in 2021 is Professor Petra Fromme (Arizona State University). Professor Fromme is a world leader in developing and applying novel technology for determining the structures of proteins, including the most challenging among them: membrane proteins. She has led this field by assembling a large network of collaborators spanning chemistry, physics, data science, biology, materials science, and engineering to pioneer the method of serial femtosecond crystallography (SFX), which is used to collect snapshots of molecules in action. She has made important contributions to the structural biology of large membrane protein complexes, especially those involved in light capture and energy conversion.

The Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin Award, sponsored by Genentech, is granted in recognition of contributions in protein science that profoundly influence our understanding of biology. The 2021 recipient is Professor Janet Smith (University of Michigan). Professor Smith is recognized for exceptional contributions to our understanding of the biological function of proteins through knowledge of their 3D structures. In major studies of natural-product biosynthetic enzymes, she demonstrated how macrolactones form, how biosynthetic assembly lines function, and how nature has adapted enzymes from primary metabolism for surprising chemical transformations such as cyclopropane formation. Her recent investigations of viral proteins and host antiviral proteins led to an understanding of how the flavivirus NS1 protein increases the virulence of dengue and Zika viruses, and how the zinc-finger antiviral protein recognizes viral RNA.

The Emil Thomas Kaiser Award, sponsored by generous individual contributions, recognizes a recent, highly significant contribution to the application of chemistry in the study of proteins. The 2021 recipient is Professor Lei Wang (University of California San Francisco). Professor Wang has advanced the genetic introduction of unnatural amino acids into proteins in living systems. Professor Wang pioneered the concept of proximity-enabled bioreactivity, in which an unnatural amino acid selectively reacts with a nearby target natural amino acid, introducing a new covalent bond into a protein. Such modifications can confer exceptional stability, affinity, and optical control on targeted proteins. Technology that Professor Wang developed makes it possible to identify elusive protein interactions in living cells, and provides a route to covalent protein therapeutics. His contributions open up a new field with impacts on biological studies, biotherapeutics, and synthetic biology.

The Hans Neurath Award, sponsored by the Hans Neurath Foundation, honors individuals who have made a recent contribution of exceptional merit to basic protein research. In 2021, there are two awardees: Professor Amy Rosenzweig (Northwestern University) and Professor Toshiya Endo (Kyoto Sangyo University).

Professor Endo has made outstanding contributions to the fields of intracellular protein sorting and mitochondrial biology and is an international leader in the area of structure-function studies of cell organelles. His work combines biochemical, structural, and molecular biological approaches in a highly innovative and productive manner to solve major problems of protein research. The molecular understanding of the mitochondrial protein import machinery elucidated by Professor Endo is a highlight of mitochondrial research and provides an essential basis for understanding diseases of mitochondrial dysfunction.

Professor Rosenzweig is a preeminent protein biochemist who tackles problems at the forefront of bioinorganic chemistry. Her lab studies metal-dependent methane oxidation, oxygen activation, and metal uptake and transport using structural, spectroscopic, biochemical, genetic, and bioinformatics approaches. Her contributions characterizing the membrane-bound methane monooxygenase have inspired new ways to harness the energy of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, as an alternative liquid fuel source. Other work from Professor Rosenzweig on copper uptake may hold therapeutic potential in Wilson's disease, a genetic disorder leading to copper overload in humans.

The Stein & Moore Award, sponsored by The Protein Society with support from Wiley, is named for Nobel laureates Dr. William Stein and Dr. Stanford Moore. The award recognizes eminent leaders in protein science who have made sustained high-impact research contributions to the field. The 2021 recipient is Professor David Agard (University of California San Francisco). Professor Agard's contributions cover a broad array of scientific areas, from protein folding to chaperone mechanisms, and from cytoskeletal structure and function to the structure of the centrosome. His recent determination of the structural details of complexes of Hsp90 with substrates, partner chaperones, and co-chaperones have yielded unprecedented insights into client loading, remodeling, and maturation by this system. He has made important methodological contributions to the development of cryoEM and has integrated structural biology and biophysics to interrogate dynamic protein systems, opening up previously uncharted domains of cell biology. Professor Agard is also recognized for exceptional mentoring and advocacy for the field of protein science.

The Protein Science Young Investigator Award, sponsored by Wiley, recognizes a scientist within the first 8 years of an independent career who has made an important contribution to the study of proteins. The 2021 recipient is Professor Bruno Correia (EPFL). During his time at EPFL, Professor Correia has combined computational science with experimental studies in the area of protein design. He developed methods for the de novo design of proteins that present native binding epitopes, and he led a collaborative team to demonstrate that designed proteins can induce neutralizing antibodies against respiratory syncytial virus. Professor Correia has also pioneered impactful computational methods using machine learning to advance our understanding of molecular recognition.

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Delegates, exhibitors, sponsors, and the press can learn more about the 35th Anniversary Symposium on The Protein Society website http://www.proteinsociety.org.

The Protein Society is the leading international Society devoted to furthering research and development in protein science. Founded in 1986, the purpose of the Society is to provide international forums to facilitate communication, cooperation, and collaboration regarding all aspects of the study of proteins. In support of these goals, the Society publishes Protein Science, the premier journal in the field, hosts an annual international symposium, and facilitates the education of early-career protein scientists across all lines of discipline. The Protein Society members represent a wide spectrum of academic, industry, governmental, and non-profit institutions from more than 40 countries around the world. Media inquiries can be directed to Raluca Cadar, Executive Director at 844.377.6834.

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