Michael Gelb and Frantisek Turecek receive 2013 Gustavus John Esselen Award for Chemistry in the Public Interest

EsselenProfessors Michael Gelb and František Tureček in the Department of Chemistry  are being presented with the Gustavus John Esselen Award for Chemistry in the Public Interest for their work in developing a sensitive, specific, and inexpensive technique for detecting genetic diseases in newborns. Lysosomal storage diseases, a group of rare genetic diseases that affect about 1 in every 5000 persons, cause serious abnormalities in children, and often result in premature death. Using the fact that certain errors in metabolism can be detected by enzymatic assays, Professors Gelb and Tureček have developed a multiplex assay technique that uses tandem mass spectrometry to identify these diseases using blood samples that are already routinely collected. The new procedures are so reliable and inexpensive that several states are now mandating that every newborn be tested. The diseases include Gaucher, Krabbe, Pompe, Nieman-Pick, Fabry, and Hurler syndromes. Oftentimes they are evident in the first few years of life but sometimes not apparent until later. Early detection is important for the best chances of effective treatment.

The Gustavus John Esselen Award for Chemistry in the Public Interest honors outstanding scientific achievement in scientific and technical work which contributes to the public well-being and has thereby communicated positive values of the chemical profession. The award is presented annually by the Northeastern Section of the American Chemical Society and has honored such publicly renowned chemists as F. Sherwood Rowland and Mario J. Molina (effect of chlorofluorocarbons on the ozone layer), Carl Djerassi (birth control drugs), and Kary Mullis (polymerase chain reaction). The Esselen Award is given to honor the memory of G. J. Esselen, past chair of the Northeastern Section and founder of Esselen Research Corporation.

In recognition of their contributions, Professors Gelb and Tureček will receive the Gustavus John Esselen Award for Chemistry in the Public Interest on Thursday, April 4, 2013, in a ceremony at Harvard University’s Mallinckrodt Chemistry Laboratories at 8:00 pm. Free and open to the public, the award lecture, to follow the presentation, is entitled “The Chemistry of Next Generation Newborn Screening.” Further information concerning the award can be found on the ACS Northeastern Section website.

To learn more about Professor Gelb, the Harry and Catherine Jaynne Boand Endowed Professor of Chemistry, and his research, please visit his faculty web page or his research group website.

To learn more about Professor Tureček and his research, please visit his faculty web page.

Three chemistry faculty elected to Washington State Academy of Sciences

Three UW Department of Chemistry faculty members are among the 37 new members elected to the Washington State Academy of Sciences in recognition of their distinguished and continuing scientific achievements. The Washington State Academy of Sciences provides expert scientific and engineering analysis to inform public policy-making, and works to increase the role and visibility of science in the State of Washington. The new members will be inducted into the WSAS at the fifth annual meeting at the Museum of Flight in Seattle, WA on September 20.

The newly-elected chemistry faculty are:

  • Larry Dalton, B. Seymour Rabinovitch Chair in Chemistry.
  • Michael Gelb, Harry and Catherine Jaynne Boand Endowed Professor of Chemistry and Professor of Biochemistry
  • Karen Goldberg, Nicole A. Boand Endowed Professor of Chemistry and Director, Center for Enabling New Technologies through Catalysis.

Click to learn more about the Washington State Academy of Sciences.

UW documentary features four Chemistry faculty

Professors Michael Gelb, David Ginger, Alvin Kwiram, and Pradip Rathod of the Department of Chemistry are among the notable University of Washington scientists highlighted in a new documentary released this month. “Timeless Discoveries,” a documentary made possible by the generosity of the Leonard P. & Helen M. Kammeyer Endowed Fund, highlights major breakthroughs, groundbreaking research, and practical applications revealed by the scientific community at the College of Arts & Sciences. The film, which will air on UWTV, follows professors and students as they discuss their challenges and discoveries ranging from the Hepatitis B vaccine to advances in solar energy.  The film was also featured in the Local News section of the Seattle Times.

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

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

To learn more about Emeritus Professor Kwiram and his research, please visit his faculty page.

To learn more about Professor Rathod and his research, visit his faculty web page.

UW team builds artificial enzyme

UW Chemistry professors Michael Gelb and Forrest Michael, in collaboration with Prof. David Baker (UW Biochemistry), have engineered an artificial enzyme capable of catalyzing a bimolecular Diels-Alder reaction with high stereoselectivity and substrate specificity. Their findings were reported July 16 in Science. The team of collaborators used computer modeling to screen over 10 billion possible protein backbone geometries for the ones that could support the right combination of active sites and catalytic residues. From this list, and further optimization, 84 de novo designs were selected for experimental work. Ultimately, two of the designed enzymes showed the ability to catalyze the Diels-Alder reaction.

The Diels-Alder reaction is one of the cornerstones of synthetic chemistry and no naturally occurring enzymes have been shown to catalyze it. Broader application of de novo enzyme design should be significantly useful in synthetic chemistry.

The authors of the paper also include Justin Siegel (graduate student in biochemistry, UW), Alexandre Zanghellini (graduate student in biochemistry, UW), Helena Lovick (graduate student in chemistry, UW), Gert Kiss (graduate student in chemistry, UCLA), Abigail Lambert (former graduate student with Prof. Stoddard), Jennifer St. Clair (Dept. of Biochemistry, UW), Jasmine Gallaher (lab technician, Baker lab),  Barry Stoddard (Professor at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle), Don Hilvert (Professor of Chemistry, ETH Zurich), Michael Gelb (Professor of Chemistry, UW), Ken Houk (Professor of Chemistry, UCLA), Forrest Michael (Associate Professor of Chemistry, UW), David Baker (Professor of Biochemistry, UW).

Picture: UW graduate student Justin Siegel, professor Forrest Michael, professor Michael Gelb and post-doctoral fellow Alexandre Zanghellini (Steve Ringman / The Seattle Times).

J. B. Siegel, A. Zanghellini, H. M. Lovick, G. Kiss, A. R. Lambert, J. L. St. Clair, J. L. Gallaher, D. Hilvert, M. H. Gelb, B. L. Stoddard, K. N. Houk, F. E. Michael, D. Baker “Computational Design of an Enzyme Catalyst for a Stereoselective Bimolecular Diels-Alder Reaction”, Science, 2010, 239, 309-313

Read the Science paper

Read the article in The Seattle Times

Read the Chemistry World article

Also visit faculty webpages for Michael Gelb, Forrest Michael and David Baker.

Professor Michael Gelb Receives 2010 Hopkins Award

Professor Michael GelbProfessor Michael Gelb received the 2010 Hopkins Award on Friday May 19, delivering a lecture titled “Newborn Screening for Lysosomal Storage Diseases: Another Triumph for Organic Chemistry”. Lysosomal storage diseases are caused by a deficiency of enzymes that break down cellular metabolites. The Gelb group, in collaboration with Professors Frantisek Turecek and C. Ronald Scott (Pediatrics), has developed new methods based on synthetic organic chemistry and tandem mass spectrometry to screen newborns for several types of these often-fatal, but treatable, diseases.

 The Paul B. Hopkins Endowed Faculty Award is awarded to a member of the Department of Chemistry faculty to honor outstanding achievement in any area of professional responsibility. The award was established through an endowment from Emeritus Professor B. S. Rabinovitch.

For more information about Michael Gelb and his research, please visit his faculty page and research group website.

Michael Gelb elected as AAAS Fellow

Prof. Mike GelbProfessor Michael Gelb has been elected as a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). AAAS recognizes Fellows for their contributions to science and technology. Gelb is one of six newly-elected Fellows from the University of Washington.

Read the AAAS press release and full list of elected Fellows.

Read more about Gelb and the five other newly-elected AAAS Fellows from UW in the University Week.

For more information about Michael Gelb and his research, please visit his faculty page and research group website.

UW-developed newborn screening for lysosomal storage diseases to begin in Illinois

Governor Rod R. Blagojevich of the State of Illinois recently signed into law a bill that mandates screening of all infants for five genetic diseases caused by the deficiency of five different cellular enzymes. Screening will be carried out using a new technology based on mass spectrometry that was developed at the University of Washington in research led by Professors Michael Gelb and Frantisek Turecek in the Department of Chemistry and Professor C. Ronald Scott in the Department of Pediatrics at the UW School of Medicine. The technology allows technicians to assay multiple enzymes simultaneously from a small drop of a dried blood spot placed on a screening card. As there is already treatment available for the five diseases (Fabry, Gaucher, Krabbe, Niemann-Pick, and Pompe) and early treatment yields better results, newborn screening will identify vulnerable infants and improve their outcome in fighting these diseases.

The work was funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Genzyme Corporation.

For more information about Mike Gelb and his research, please visit his faculty page or his research group website.

For more information about Frank Turecek, please visit his faculty page.

Michael Gelb receives NIH MERIT Award

In March 2007, Professor Michael Gelb received a Merit Award from the National Institutes of Health for his work in the area of phospholipase A2. This award from the NIH provides research funding for ten years without requiring the primary investigator to participate in a competitive review cycle. The following description of the NIH Merit Award is from the award website.

In October 1985, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) began to offer a limited number of Method to Extend Research in Time (MERIT) Awards to investigators who have demonstrated superior competence and outstanding productivity during their previous research endeavors in areas related to heart, lung, or blood research and who are likely to continue to perform in an outstanding manner in the future.

The principal feature of the MERIT Award is the opportunity to obtain up to ten years of research support in two segments and thereby relieve awardees of the need to prepare frequent renewal applications. Specifically, an initial four- to five-year award is accompanied by an opportunity to obtain an extension of three to five years through an expedited review of a statement of the accomplishments during the initial period and a brief outline of plans for the extension period.

Investigators cannot apply for MERIT Awards. After new and competing renewal investigator-initiated research project grant (R01) applications are reviewed in the usual manner, NHLBI staff and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Advisory Council (NHLBAC) give further consideration to those R01 applications that meet the criteria for a MERIT Award. The Director, NHLBI, notifies those investigators who are selected.

For information about Michael Gelb and his research program, please visit his faculty page or research group website.

UW research collaboration yields low-cost infant disease screening

Rare metabolic diseases such as Tay-Sachs, Fabry and Gaucher syndromes are caused by enzyme deficiencies and typically have crippling, even fatal, consequences starting at very early ages. Now a team of University of Washington scientists has developed a relatively simple screening process to detect enzyme deficiencies in newborns that will allow treatment to begin before too much damage has been done.

“All of the damage from these diseases is permanent, so if you can start treatment early, in a few weeks or months, you can begin to minimize the damage,” said Frantisek Turecek, a UW chemistry professor.

The technique uses a spot of blood drawn from a baby’s heel and dried on a paper card. A 2-millimeter section is punched out of the spot, then is rehydrated, the target enzymes are incubated and then measured using tandem mass spectrometry, a means of determining a substance’s chemical makeup and quantity. The sample can be screened for perhaps 15 enzyme deficiencies at the same time, and the entire process typically will take less than two days, Turecek said.

(from a Mar. 30, 2006 article in University Week online)

Additional material available on the Biochemistry website.