Rosenstiel Award lectures on Mar 22 to honor Susan Lindquist

James Haber, Director of the Rosenstiel Center, writes:

The 46th annual Rosenstiel Award for Distinguished Work in Basic Medical Research was awarded last October to Susan Lindquist (MIT), one of the most inventive and influential life scientists of our generation.  Sue tragically passed away a few weeks thereafter; in her honor we have arranged a symposium to celebrate her lab’s great legacy.  The Award talks will be held in next Wednesday, March 22, in Gerstenzang 123 from 3:30 PM to 5:30 PM, followed by a reception open to all in the Shapiro Science Center atrium.  We hope you will all come to honor Sue Lindquist and to be edified by the excellent work carried out by her former colleagues.

Angelika Amon  (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)
“The Remarkable Scientific Life of Susan Lindquist”

Leah Cowen (University of Toronto)
“Harnessing Evolution to Thwart Microbial Drug Resistance and Treat Infectious Disease”

Daniel Jarosz (Stanford University)
“Remembering the Past: A New Form of Protein-Based Inheritance”

Sandro Santagata (Brigham and Women’s Hospital)
“Heat Shock Factor (HSF1): A Powerful Driver of Malignancy”

Susan Lindquist


Jeffery Kelly to receive the 2016 Jacob and Louise Gabbay Award


Jeffery W. Kelly

Jeffery W. Kelly, the Lita Annenberg Hazen Professor of Chemistry, and Chairman of the Department of Molecular and Experimental Medicine at the Scripps Research Institute, has been selected to receive the 2016 Jacob and Louise Gabbay Award in Biotechnology and Medicine “in recognition of his profound and paradigm-shifting contributions to our understanding of protein folding mechanisms and protein misfolding diseases”.

The award, administered by the Rosenstiel Center at Brandeis, consists of a $15,000 cash prize and a medallion. Dr. Kelly will deliver the award lecture on “The Chemistry and Biology of Adapting Proteostasis for Disease Intervention” in the Shapiro Campus Center Theater at 4:00PM, on Thursday, September 29, 2016.

The Kelly Group focuses their research on understanding the principles of protein folding and comprehending the basis for misfolding diseases. They strive to develop novel therapeutic strategies using chemistry, biophysical and cell biology approaches.


Timothy Street to join Biochemistry faculty

The Biochemistry Department is delighted to announce that Timothy Street has accepted a position as Assistant Professor of Biochemistry. He will arrive at Brandeis in early September.

Timo received his undergraduate degree in Physics from UC  Berkeley and his PhD in Biophysics from Johns Hopkins. For the past few years he has been carrying out postdoctoral research at UCSF in the lab of David Agard.  He works at the nexus of structural biology and the physical chemistry of protein folding, focusing on a perplexing, challenging class of “molecular chaperones,” proteins that help other proteins fold properly into their native conformations.  One of the great puzzles in this biologically crucial field is how these chaperones recognize and engage with the proteins emerging from the ribosome that are improperly folded and need their energy-dependent attention.  Moreover, this process is intimately related to the unfolded protein response, a kind of cellular panic-button.  To attack these kinds of questions, Timo applies a wide range of structural and kinetics methods and in his postdoctoral work has shown how these may be cleverly integrated to picture the mechanisms of highly dynamic chaperone proteins. He is beginning new projects to develop sensors that will allow him to dissect the actions of chaperones in live cells, to complement the mechanistic pictures emerging from his in vitro studies in purified, defined systems.

What a failed drug does (and is there hope for latrepirdine?)

Latrepirdine (Dimebon) was initially used as an antihistamine drug in Russia. It was later found to be neuroprotective, and entered phase II clinical trials in the US for both Alzheimer’s disease and Huntington’s disease. However, Dimebon failed in a US-based phase II replication trial of a prior successful Russian phase II trial of mild-to-moderate AD. Given the initial promise of the drug and split results,  as well as the lack of treatments for neurodegenerative diseases, there in is significant interest in understanding the underlying molecular mechanism(s) for the drug’s effects.

In a paper appearing this week in Molecular Psychiatry, Brandeis researchers in the Petsko-Ringe lab, including postdoc Shulin Ju and undergraduate Jessica Liken ’11, used yeast models of neurodegenerative disease associated proteins to show that Dimebon specifically protects yeast from the cytotoxiciy of α-synuclein, a protein involved in Parkinson’s disease. They further showed that protection is mediated through its up-regulation of autophagy pathway. In collaboration with Sam Gandy‘s group at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, these findings were further confirmed and validated in neuronal cell and animal models.

Given these observations, disparities in the contribution of α-synuclein to the neuropathology between the Russian and US Dimebon studies might also explain, at least in part, the inconsistency of the cognitive benefit in the two trials. If this speculation is correct, then it may be interesting to test for benefits of Dimebon in treating synucleinopathies such as Parkinson’s disease, Lewy body dementia, REM sleep disorder and/or multiple system atrophy.

see also: press release from Mt. Sinai Alzheimer’s Diesease Research Center

Steele JW (*), Ju S(*), Lachenmayer ML(*), Liken J, Stock A, Kim SH, Delgado LM, Alfaro IE, Bernales S, Verdile G, Bharadwaj P, Gupta V, Barr R, Friss A, Dolios G, Wang R, Ringe D, Protter AA, Martins RN, Ehrlich ME, Yue Z, Petsko GA, Gandy S. Latrepirdine stimulates autophagy and reduces accumulation of alpha-synuclein in cells and in mouse brain. Molecular psychiatry. 2012.

Steele JW(*), Lachenmayer ML(*), Ju S, Stock A, Liken J, Kim SH, Delgado LM, Alfaro IE, Bernales S, Verdile G, Bharadwaj P, Gupta V, Barr R, Friss A, Dolios G, Wang R, Ringe D, Fraser P, Westaway D, St George-Hyslop PH, Szabo P, Relkin NR, Buxbaum JD, Glabe CG, Protter AA, Martins RN, Ehrlich ME, Petsko GA, Yue Z, Gandy S. Latrepirdine improves cognition and arrests progression of neuropathology in an Alzheimer’s mouse model. Molecular psychiatry. 2012.

Hagan to receive Strage Award

On March 26, 2012, Professor Gregory A. Petsko wrote on behalf of the Strage Award Selection Committee:

It is with great pleasure that I announce the recipient of this year’s Strage Award for Aspiring Young Science Faculty, Dr. Michael Hagan of the Physics Department.

Mike is one of Brandeis’ most accomplished young faculty members. His work has focused largely on the factors that govern self-assembly – the ability of macromolecular systems to form organized structures spontaneously. This is at the heart of the development of complexity, not just in living organisms but also in nanotechnology. Please join me in congratulating Mike on winning this award, and bring your students and postdocs to his Strage Award Lecture.

The award ceremony and lecture will take place on Monday, April 16, in Abelson 131, at 12 :30 p.m. The title of the lecture is Mechanisms of Virus Assembly.

Susan Lindquist talks about prions on Apr 8

Susan Lindquist of the Whitehead Institute will speak about at Brandeis on April 8 at 11;30 am in Gerstenzang 121 in the Biochemistry/Biophysics Friday Pizza Talks series, by special invitation of the Biochemistry graduate students. Lindquist’s talk is entitled “25 New Prions: surprising biology, surprising biochemistry“. The Lindquist lab has made remarkable progress in understanding the role of protein folding, elucidating the role of heat shock proteins (molecular chaperones) and most recently in discovering new prions (proteins that can change into a self-perpetuating form) and suggesting new roles for prions in processes such as memory. Lindquist has received numerous awards, including the National Medal of Science, Max Delbrück Medal, the Mendel Medal, and the Otto Warburg Prize.


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