Michael Gelb to receive the 2018 Repligen Award

Michael Gelb, Professor and Boris and Barbara L. Weinstein Endowed Chair in Chemistry, was selected as the 2018 recipient of the highly prestigious Repligen Corporation Award in the Chemistry of Biological Processes. This award was established in 1985 to “acknowledge and encourage outstanding contributions to the understanding of the chemistry of biological processes, with particular emphasis on structure, function, and mechanism.” The award is given annually by the Division of Biological Chemistry of the American Chemical Society.

Professor Gelb and his co-workers have made numerous seminal scientific contributions during his three decades of research at the University of Washington. Among these are the elucidation of the structure and mechanism of phospholipase A2, an enzyme that operates at the membrane-water interface, the discovery of protein prenylation, and the development of the first practical method to screen newborns for a family of rare genetic diseases. The latter protocol is being adopted world-wide.

This award is an extraordinary honor for lifetime scientific achievement in biological chemistry. Professor Gelb joins a list of previous recipients that includes leading figures in the history of biological chemistry such as Robert Abeles, Stephen Benkovic, Harold Scheraga, Frank Westheimer, Jeremy Knowles, Judith Klinman, William Jencks, Christopher Walsh, and JoAnne Stubbe. He will receive the award at an upcoming ACS national meeting, anticipated for the latter part of 2018.

To learn more about Professor Gelb and his research, please visit his faculty page and research group website.

Sotiris Xantheas awarded Fulbright Fellowship

Sotiris S. Xantheas, Affiliate Professor of Chemistry and UW-PNNL Distinguished Faculty Fellow, was awarded a fellowship by the Greek Diaspora Fellowship Program and the Fulbright Foundation.

Started in 2016, the Greek Diaspora Fellowship Program, managed by the Institute of International Education and the Fulbright Foundation in Greece and funded by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, is part of an effort to develop long-term collaborations between universities in Greece and the United States while enhancing opportunities for Greek students. “This award has the potential to positively affect the lives of young students and it is an excellent opportunity to reciprocate the educational benefits I received — for free — from my own country,” said Xantheas, who was one of thirty Greek- and Cypriot-born scholars scholars selected in this round of awards among professors in U.S. institutions in fields ranging from humanities, law, medicine and science.

Dr. Xantheas will work with Dr. George Boulougouris at the Department of Molecular Biology & Genetics at the Democritus University of Thrace in Alexandroupoli to pursue curriculum co-development and collaborative research in analyzing and modeling the formation of the hydrogen bond network in a variety of aqueous environments by bridging quantum and classical modeling approaches. During the five-week program, Dr. Xantheas will collaborate on research projects, work with students and give lectures on the intricate network of bonds within watery environments.

Dr. Xantheas is a Laboratory Fellow in Chemical Physics & Analysis, part of the Physical Sciences Division at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. Dr. Xantheas is widely recognized for his expertise related to the molecular science of aqueous systems. His innovative studies of intermolecular interactions in aqueous ionic clusters and use of ab initio electronic structure calculations to elucidate their structural and spectral features are at the forefront of molecular theory and computation.

For additional coverage, see the PNNL news brief and the Stavros Niarchos Foundation announcement.

For more information about Dr. Xantheas and his research, visit his faculty page or his PNNL staff page.

South Asia ICEMR receives 7-year, $9.3M renewal from NIH

Pradipsinh Rathod, left, and Laura Chery, right. Dennis Wise/University of Washington

The National Institutes of Health has renewed a major grant that funds a University of Washington-led research center to understand malaria in India.

The initiative — Malaria Evolution in South Asia (MESA), first funded in 2010 — is one of 10 NIH-supported International Centers of Excellence for Malaria Research, or ICEMRs. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases announced that it would provide $9.3 million in funds to the South Asia ICEMR over the next seven years, beginning July 1, 2017.

South Asia sits in the middle of the malaria corridor that cuts from Southeast Asia to Africa.

“India is a country of critical importance for understanding the spread of virulent malaria globally,” said Pradipsinh K. Rathod, a UW professor of chemistry and the director of the Malaria Evolution in South Asia ICEMR. “While most deaths caused by drug-resistant strains of malaria have occurred in Africa, most drug-resistant parasites arise first in Asia.”

Malaria in India remains underappreciated. The country has 1.3 billion people and more than 90% of the population live in areas where there is risk of malaria transmission. India had an estimated 13 million cases of malaria in 2015, according to the World Health Organization. Beyond that, the picture of malaria in India is one of diversity.

“There is enormous variation in the prevalence of malaria around the country — variation in levels of immunity and variation in the species of mosquitoes that spread the disease,” said Laura Chery, the South Asia ICEMR’s associate director. “Most importantly, there is unexpectedly high genetic diversity in malaria parasites that are circulating in India.”

In addition to researchers from the UW, the South Asia ICEMR also includes U.S. scientists from Harvard University, the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Stanford University. But by far the largest contingent of researchers that make up the center’s efforts are the dozens of scientists, clinicians and field workers at sites across India.

“We have formed wonderful, productive partnerships with hospitals, clinics, government agencies and community members,” said Chery. “Together, we have learned to do advanced science on the ground at clinically important sites.”

Through partnerships with local hospitals and research institutes, the center currently works out of six sites across India. The locations capture the diversity of this massive country: Four sites are in eastern and northeastern India, where malaria is endemic and cases can reach as high as 50 to 100 per 1,000 people. Two other sites are on the west coast, where the prevalence of malaria can be relatively low — fewer than 1 case per 1,000 people. But these sites include urban hospitals that attract and treat large numbers of malaria patients, including migrants from other parts of the country.

“We believe that movement of people within the country can partly explain the complexity of malaria in India,” said Rathod. “However, we do not fully understand the basis for such variations.”

At each site, staff enroll patients to obtain malaria parasite samples, as well as information on each patient’s health history. From on-site laboratories in India, center staff and partners pursue a number of research projects: analyzing parasite samples for signs of drug resistance, understanding the basis for variations in disease presentation, sequencing parasite genomes and determining their genetic relatedness to one another, and testing how well different mosquito species take up various malaria strains.

In addition to setting up complex research infrastructure, in its first seven years the center has made some surprising conclusions about malaria in India. Parasites in India show more genetic diversity than parasites in the rest of the world combined, according to Rathod. As a consequence, some standard laboratory tests for drug resistance, developed elsewhere in the world, do not accurately predict whether Indian parasites will show drug resistance.

Drug resistance is a major concern in malaria. Chloroquine was once an effective drug to fight malaria. But a generation ago, malaria parasites began to evolve resistance to it, rendering it largely ineffective. Today, the drug artemisinin is considered the best treatment against malaria. But artemisinin-resistant strains of malaria already have been identified in Southeast Asia. The Indian government and the South Asia ICEMR are on the lookout for artemisinin resistance among patients in northeastern and eastern India. Beyond that, the South Asia ICEMR is looking for parasites that mutate at extraordinary rates, as seen in Southeast Asia.

“By getting a clearer picture of malaria in India, we’re ‘closing the gap’ on how this complex parasite behaves globally,” Rathod said.

For the 2017-2024 cycle, other South Asia ICEMR project leaders are Neena Valecha, director of the National Institute of Malaria Research in India, and Manoj Duraisingh at Harvard University. Additional U.S.-based senior contributors are Joseph Smith at the Center for Infectious Disease Research, Shripad Tuljapurkar at Stanford University and James Kublin and Holly Janes at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. Additional India-based senior contributors are Anup Anvikar at National Institute of Malaria Research; Subrata Baidya at Agartala Government Medical College; D.R. Bhattacharrya and P.K. Mohapatra at Regional Medical Research Centre, NE Region; Edwin Gomes at Goa Medical College & Hospital; Sanjeeb Kakati at Assam Medical College; Ashwani Kumar at National Institute of Malaria Research, Goa Field Unit; Sanjib Mohanty and A.K. Singh at Ispat General Hospital; and Swati Patankar at Indian Institute of Technology Bombay.

For more information about Professor Rathod and his research, please visit his faculty page or the NIH NIAID South Asia ICEMR website.

Story by James Urton, UW News. Additional coverage in the July 2017 Perspectives Newsletter from the College of Arts & Sciences.

 

Recent work by David Ginger and coworkers published in Nature Materials

Recent work by Professor David Ginger and colleagues was published online on June 19 in Nature Materials. The research was also highlighted in a News & Views article.

Lead author Rajiv Giridharagopal, left, and co-author Lucas Flagg standing next to an atomic force microscope. Dane deQuilettes

The Ginger group, in collaboration with Professor Christine Luscombe (Materials Science & Engineering) and the Clean Energy Institute, has discovered the basic design principles for constructing polymers that can transport both electrons and ions. This is a critical step toward making polymer-based devices at the interface of biology and electronics, such as improved biosensors and bioelectronics implants.

“Most of our technology relies on electronic currents, but biology transduces signals with ions, which are charged atoms or molecules,” said David Ginger, Alvin L. and Verla R. Kwiram Endowed Professor of Chemistry and chief scientist at the UW’s Clean Energy Institute. “If you want to interface electronics and biology, you need a material that effectively communicates across those two realms.”

UW researchers directly measured a thin film made of a single type of conjugated polymer—a conducting plastic—as it interacted with ions and electrons. They show how variations in the polymer layout yielded rigid and non-rigid regions of the film, and that these regions could accommodate electrons or ions—but not both equally. The softer, non-rigid areas were poor electron conductors but could subtly swell to take in ions, while the opposite was true for rigid regions.

The Luscombe group made new P3HT films that had different levels of rigidity based on variations in polymer arrangement. Tests conducted by the Ginger group showed a clear correlation between polymer arrangement and electrochemical properties. The less rigid and more amorphous polymer layouts yielded films that could swell to let in ions, but were poor conductors of electrons. More crystalline polymer arrangements yielded more rigid films that could easily conduct electrons.

Their results demonstrate how critical the polymer synthesis and layout process is to the film’s electronic and ionic conductance properties. Their findings may even point the way forward in creating polymer devices that can balance the demands of electronic transport and ion transport.

“The implication of these findings is that you could conceivably embed a crystalline material—which could transport electrons—within a material that is more amorphous and could transport ions,” said Ginger. “Imagine that you could harness the best of both worlds, so that you could have a material that is able to effectively transport electrons and swell with ion uptake—and then couple the two with one another.”

See the UW News article for expanded coverage.

To learn more about Professor Ginger and his research, please visit his faculty page and research group website.

To learn more about Professor Luscombe and her research, please visit her faculty page and research group website.

To learn more about the UW Clean Energy Institute, please visit the CEI website.

 

Dan Fu receives a 2017 Beckman Young Investigator Award

Assistant Professor Dan Fu has been selected as one of eight recipients of the 2017 Beckman Young Investigator Award. The Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation aims to support “the most promising young faculty members in the early stages of their academic careers in the chemical and life sciences, particularly to foster the invention of methods, instruments and materials that will open new avenues of research in science.” The recipients were selected from a pool of over 300 applicants after a three-part review led by a panel of scientific experts.

“We are excited to support these amazing researchers,” says Dr. Anne Hultgren, Executive Director of the Foundation. “The Foundation is committed to helping launch our next generation of talented scientists by giving them the funding and flexibility they need to pursue novel areas of study that have the potential for revolutionary breakthroughs.”

Additional coverage of Professor Fu’s research and his Beckman Young Investigator Award can be found in the Summer 2017 issue of the ChemLetter and the July 2017 Perspectives Newsletter from the College of Arts & Sciences.

To learn more about Professor Fu and his research, please visit his faculty page and research group website.

Ashleigh Theberge and Erwin Berthier receive Kavli Microbiome award

Assistant Professor Ashleigh Theberge and Affiliate Assistant Professor Erwin Berthier were selected to receive a Kavli Microbiome Ideas Challenge grant, which supports novel, cross-cutting tools and methods in the field of microbiome research. “The Kavli Microbiome Ideas Challenge is an exciting opportunity to support high risk, interdisciplinary research that does not normally receive traditional funding,” said Tim Donohue, Chair of the Scientific Advisory board for the Kavli Challenge. “The grants selected for funding demonstrated great potential for the generation of novel tools and methods that will be broadly applicable across the many environments and move the field forward in the causal understanding of microbial and community function. The Kavli Foundation is to be commended for investing in this rapidly emerging field with this program.”

The Theberge group, along with collaborator Nancy Keller at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, will use their Kavli grant to develop a tool for deciphering multi-kingdom communication molecules using engineer cellular traps. The team will create new analytical chemistry and engineering tools that pull out key molecules from a mix of molecular noise in order to selectively “listen” to molecular signals produced by specific fungi, bacteria, or human cells.

To learn more about Professor Theberge and her research, please visit her faculty page and research group website.

Brandi Cossairt named a 2017 Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar

Assistant Professor Brandi Cossairt has been named a 2017 Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar by The Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation.

The Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Awards Program supports the research and teaching careers of talented young faculty in the chemical sciences. Based on institutional nominations, the program provides discretionary funding to faculty at an early stage in their careers. Criteria for selection include an independent body of scholarship attained within the first five years of their appointment as independent researchers, and a demonstrated commitment to education, signaling the promise of continuing outstanding contributions to both research and teaching. The Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Awards Program provides an unrestricted research grant of $75,000.

To learn more about Professor Cossairt and her research, please visit her faculty page and research group website.

Karen Goldberg named to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences

Karen Goldberg, Professor and Nicole A. Boand Endowed Chair in Chemistry, joins 228 new members of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences this year. “It is an honor to welcome this new class of exceptional women and men as part of our distinguished membership,” said Don Randel, chair of the Academy’s Board of Directors. “Their talents and expertise will enrich the life of the Academy and strengthen our capacity to spread knowledge and understanding in service to the nation.”

Goldberg’s research focuses on designing more efficient catalysts. Better catalysts can transform industrial production methods for everything from pharmaceuticals to construction materials. Goldberg’s approach is to gather detailed data on the mechanisms by which certain chemical reactions occur and synthesize the desired products. This information is crucial to help develop catalysts that are more precise in the types of chemical products they yield, and more efficient and sustainable in terms of the amount of materials and energy used.

Goldberg also serves as director of the National Science Foundation-funded Center for Enabling New Technologies through Catalysis, a consortium of 20 faculty members and research labs at more than a dozen universities and research institutions that are pursuing innovative approaches to catalysis. Goldberg is a member of the Washington State Academy of Sciences, a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and in 2016 received the American Chemical Society Award in Organometallic Chemistry.

Founded in 1780, the American Academy of Arts and  Sciences is one of the country’s oldest learned societies and independent policy research centers, convening leaders from the academic, business and government sectors to respond to the challenges facing the nation and the world. Current research focuses on higher education, the humanities, and the arts; science and technology policy; global security and energy; and American institutions and the public good.

Members of the 2017 class include winners of the Pulitzer Prize and the Wolf Prize; MacArthur fellows; Fields medalists; Presidential Medal of Freedom and National Medal of Arts recipients; and Academy Award, Grammy Award, Emmy Award, and Tony Award winners. A full list can be found here.

Michael Gelb receives the 2017 University Faculty Lecture Award

The University of Washington has selected Michael Gelb, Professor and Boris and Barbara L. Weinstein Endowed Chair in Chemistry, as the 2017 recipient of the University Faculty Lecture Award. The award will be presented at the 47th Annual Awards of Excellence ceremony on June 8 in Meany Hall.

Since 1976, the University Faculty Lecture Award has honored current or emeritus faculty whose research, scholarship, or art has been widely recognized by their peers and whose achievements have had a substantial impact on their profession, on the research or performance of others, and perhaps on society as a whole, acknowledging outstanding creativity and scholarship by University faculty.

Professor Gelb will deliver the annual University Faculty Lecture during the 2017-18 academic year, scheduled for January 23, 2018 at 7:00 pm at Kane Hall. (Further details will appear on both the University and Department websites.)

To learn more about Professor Gelb and his research, please visit his faculty page and research group website.

Bo Zhang promoted to Professor

The Department of Chemistry congratulates Associate Professor Bo Zhang on his promotion to Professor, effective September 16, 2017.

Professor Zhang’s research focuses on the development and application of electroanalytical measurement tools to study single electrochemical events and processes. The Zhang group uses nanometer-scale electrodes to study electron transfer reactions of single molecules and single metal nanoparticles, electrocatalysis, and mass transport at the electrode/solution interface. This work is being conducted in pursuit of fundamental understanding of heterogeneous electron-transfer reactions and electrode/solution interfaces as well as single-cell chemistry and biological function such as neuronal secretion and brain activity.

To learn more about Professor Zhang and his research, please visit his faculty page and research group website.