2013 News

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  • November 13, 2013

    U.S. Congresswoman Louise Slaughter Visits Oyagen

    OyaGen announced today Congresswoman Louise Slaughter toured its laboratories at the Rochester BioVenture Center in Henrietta and met with its development team. During the visit, the Congresswoman was updated on the progress being made in moving OyaGen's drug programs toward clinical development. She also discussed with management how OyaGen's approach can provide solutions for the government's HIV policies and programs regarding the next generation of AIDS therapy, PrEP and global disease eradication.

  • October 11, 2013

    Dumont Wins Outstanding Course Director Award

    Mark Dumont, Ph.D.

    Professor Mark Dumont, Ph.D., was recently presented the Outstanding Course Director Award for 2013. Mark has served as course director for Biochemistry IND 408, a core course in the graduate studies curriculum within the School of Medicine and Dentistry, for over 10 years. Previous to this service, Mark served as director of Biochemistry of Macromolecules, BCH 412, for 5 years. As noted by Professor Eric Phizicky, Ph.D., who lectures in IND 408, Mark has shown an uncanny ability, coupled with exceptional effort, to continually evolve the course to more up-to-date topics and to more sophisticated analysis of existing topics. Almost alone among course directors, he attends most lectures most years, allowing him to evolve a highly coherent course. Jeffrey Hayes, Ph.D., Professor and Chair of the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics remarks that Mark's commitment to his students and efforts on their behalf has rightfully earned him the high opinion of both his colleagues and his students, and serves as an exemplary example for all those involved in teaching.

    Established in 2013, this award is given to an Outstanding Graduate Course Director. The selection of the awardee is based on the course’s record of excellence, course-instructor survey evaluations and letters of recommendation from students enrolled in the course, and is presented by the Office of the Senior Associate Dean for Graduate Studies.

  • September 19, 2013

    Fred Sherman, Major Contributor to Modern Genetics, Dies

    Dr. Fred Sherman

    Fred Sherman, Ph.D., an internationally recognized scientist and a faculty member at the University of Rochester Medical Center since 1962, died on September 16 at the age of 81. Sherman, who served as chair of the Department of Biochemistry and then the merged Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics from 1982 until 1999, was one of only three URMC faculty members appointed to the prestigious National Academy of Sciences.

    Sherman performed groundbreaking research on the structure of genes and the effects of genetic mutations on proteins in yeast. He was also a proponent of the use of baker's yeast as a genetic model system. Research using yeast is now conducted at virtually all research centers worldwide, largely due to Sherman’s efforts and his teaching of many leaders in the field.

    It’s hard to overstate Fred’s contribution to modern genetics. His insights into how genetic mutations affect protein coding and his foresight of the utility of the yeast system quite literally changed the course of biological research, said Jeffrey J. Hayes, Ph.D., chair of Biochemistry and Biophysics at URMC. Beyond his scientific accomplishments, Fred’s quick wit and sense of humor were legendary. It was always enjoyable to be in a room with Fred. He will be terribly missed.

    The Democrat and Chronicle has published an article about Fred's life, viewable here.

  • September 18, 2013

    Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics Faculty and Students Honored at Opening Convocation

    Graduate students Lu Han and Michael Mierzejewski were awarded the Elmer H. Stotz Graduate Fellowship in Biochemistry Award. This award was established by the Stotz family to honor Dr. Elmer Stotz, Professor Emeritus and former Chair of the Department of Biochemistry. It is awarded to a Ph.D. student in Biochemistry.

    Assistant Professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics, Alan Grossfield, was one of two professors who were awarded the Outstanding Graduate Student Teacher Award. Established in 2013, this award is given to an outstanding graduate student teacher for record of excellence in classroom instruction.

    Dr. Eric Phizicky, Professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics, and Dean’s Professor, was one of four professors awarded a Faculty Mentoring Award. Dr. Phizicky won the Mentoring of Academic Faculty Award.

    Dr. Jeffrey Hayes, Professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics & Chair of the Department, was awarded the Shohei Koide Professor in Biochemistry and Biophysics. This is a new professorship, established in 2013, and is intended to support the Chair of the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics.

    Congratulations to all of our winners!

  • September 16, 2013

    OyaGen Receives Funding From State Program

    OyaGen is a Rochester-based bio-pharmaceutical company that is on the leading edge of research and development of drug treatments for HIV, AIDS and other viral diseases. Dr. Harold Smith is the founder of the company. Smith welcomed State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli to town Monday and led him on a tour of the facility.

    DiNapoli announced the company will receive an additional $150,000. Since 2006, the pension fund's in-state private equity program has invested nearly $1.4 million in OyaGen. With an early investment, then a larger investment is called for and we move through in steps like that so we use the money wisely, and that we are now where we are, which is recognized as leaders in this area, Smith said.

    Funding from the state pension fund has allowed OyaGen to purchase a robotic drug screening device. That device is helping researchers develop drug treatments for HIV, AIDS and other viral diseases.

  • August 21, 2013

    Hayes to Head Biochemistry and Biophysics at URMC

    Jeffrey J. Hayes, Ph.D., has been selected as chair of the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics at the University of Rochester Medical Center. A faculty member for nearly two decades and the recently installed Shohei Koide Professor in Biochemistry and Biophysics, Hayes takes the reins after serving as interim chair since early 2012.

    An accomplished and highly-respected scientist, Hayes' research focuses on chromatin, the combination of DNA and proteins that comprise the nucleus of a cell. His lab works to understand how the DNA within chromatin is accessed for replication and repair and used in gene expression - the conversion of genetic information into proteins that make up the body and perform most life functions.

    Jeff is skilled at bringing people together for the common good and understands what it takes to create an environment that is conducive to great scientific research and education, said Lynne E. Maquat, Ph.D., director of the Center for RNA Biology and the J. Lowell Orbison Distinguished Professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics. He is organized, transparent and fair by nature and we are fortunate that he has agreed to take the helm.

    Jeff has all the characteristics needed to be an effective chair and was the clear choice to lead the department after an excellent term as interim chair, said Mark B. Taubman, M.D., dean of the School of Medicine and Dentistry. I am confident that he will take what is already an extremely strong scientific department to an even higher level of excellence.

  • August 9, 2013

    URMC Biochemistry Professor Receives 2014 ASBMB William C. Rose Award

    Lynne Maquat, Ph.D., the J. Lowell Orbison Endowed Chair & Professor, Biochemistry & Biophysics, Director of the University of Rochester Center for RNA Biology, and Chair of the University of Rochester Graduate Women in Science, has been selected to receive The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB) 2014 William C. Rose Award. The William C. Rose Award recognizes outstanding contributions to biochemical and molecular biological research and a demonstrated commitment to the training of young scientists, as epitomized by the late Dr. Rose. A part of the Award includes transportation to the 2014 ASBMB Annual Meeting to present a lecture, April 26-30, 2014 in San Diego. For more on Dr. Maquat and her research program please visit the Maquat Lab.

  • August 2, 2013

    Dr. Mahin Maines Granted Patent

    On June 4, 2013 Dr. Mahin Maines' patent application #8,455,427: Methods of Modifying Insulin Signaling Using Biliverdin Reductase was granted by the US Patent Trademark Office. The application of the technology is treatment of type 2 diabetes. The patent was issued for therapeutic use of a 7 residue peptide that activates insulin receptor kinase (IRK) and increases glucose uptake more effectively than insulin or IGF-1. The peptide is derived from biliverdin reductase, which itself is a kinase/kinase, a scaffold protein and intracellular transporter in the insulin/IGF-1/PI3-K/MAPK pathways. Additional patent applications for use of the reductase in regulation of the noted pathways are pending.

  • July 19, 2013

    Dr. Yi-Tao Yu's Research Published in Nature

    Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics Associate Professor Yi-Tao Yu, Ph.D. was a co-corresponding author on a paper recently published in Nature. This work presented a novel and completely unexpected codon-anticodon base-pairing interaction in the ribosomal decoding center during translation. This work provided a molecular basis for the decoding of a nonsense codon by the ribosome.

    The research was carried out in collaboration with the Venki Ramakrishnan lab at MRC in Cambridge, UK. Dr. Ramakrishnan won the 2009 Nobel Prize in Chemistry (along with Thomas Steitz and Ada Yonath) for his pioneering work on the structure and function of ribosome. Dr. Ramakrishnan will be visiting U of R in October.

  • July 19, 2013

    Professor's Company Produces Video

    Oyagen Inc, a biotech company founded and directed by Harold C. Smith, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, and the Center for RNA biology has produced a video describing how the AIDS virus reproduces and how novel drugs being developed by the company to enable naturally occurring host defense factors to block the virus. The video was produced in conjunction with a recently graduated RIT student Tang Tao.

  • June 14, 2013

    Department Faculty Awarded 2013 Provost's Multidisciplinary Award

    The X-ray crystal structure of bacterial ribosome.

    Biochemistry and Biophysics Department faculty Dmitri Ermolenko, Ph.D. and David Mathews, M.D., Ph.D., in collaboration with Professor Gloria Culver, Ph.D. from the Biology Department, in the School of Arts and Sciences, were recently awarded a Provost's Multidisciplinary Award to study how RNA structure contributes to the regulation of gene expression. Their project, entitled Regulation of Protein Synthesis by mRNA Structure, aims to take a novel look at initiation of protein synthesis in eukaryotes through multiple approaches, including single-molecule fluorescent microscopy and fluorescent spectroscopy (Ermolenko laboratory), probing of RNA structure (Culver laboratory), and computational biology (Mathews laboratory). The research will test whether the secondary structure of mRNA facilitates the recruitment of initiation factors and thereby aids translation initiation. These studies will address fundamental biological questions, potentially changing paradigms regarding regulation of protein synthesis.

    A FRET time trace showing changes in donor (green) and acceptor (red) fluorescence, which correspond to fluctuations of the ribosome between different conformations.

    The Provost's Multidisciplinary Award provides pilot funding for especially exciting scholarly research with a high probability of future support from external sources of funding. The Award is designed to foster collaboration between departments and across schools at the University of Rochester. Five diverse research projects at the University were selected as recipients of the sixth annual Provost's Multidisciplinary Awards. The initiative provides $250,000 each year to support faculty research that crosses disciplines.

  • June 12, 2013

    Visiting Scientist to Present Two Talks

    Todd Lowe, chief scientific officer of Maverix Biomics Inc. and associate professor of biomolecular engineering at the University of California, Santa Cruz, will present Human TRNAs: A Complex Gene Family Still Full of Surprises at 11 a.m. Tuesday, June 18, in Adolph Auditorium (1-7619) in the Medical Center. The talk is sponsored by the Department of Biomedical Genetics and the Center for Genomics and Systems Biology. Lowe also will discuss the Maverix Analytic Platform for bioinformatic analysis at 12:30 p.m. in the Biomedical Genetics Conference Room (2-9654), Medical Center.

  • May 24, 2013

    Biochemistry & Biophysics Students Win Fellowships

    Nick Leioatts

    Will McDougall

    Graduate students Nick Leioatts and Will McDougall were recently awarded an Elon Huntington Hooker Fellowship for the 2013-2014 academic year. The doctoral students were selected for their achievements in research from among graduate student applicants campus-wide. Nick's research focuses on using computational methods to understand ligand-induced structural changes in G protein coupled receptors (GPCRs), and is carried out in the laboratory of Alan Grossfield. Will's research focuses on the role of the HIV host-defense factor APOBEC3G and its inactivation by RNA binding, which may provide novel drugable targets for HIV treatment and prevention. His research is carried out in the laboratory of Harold Smith. Congratulations Nick and Will!

  • May 22, 2013

    New RNA Structure - the Wedekind Lab has it Covered!

    Crystal structure of the preQ1-II riboswitch (cover art from Liberman et al.)

    Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics Associate Professor Joseph Wedekind and members of his research group (Joseph Liberman, Mohammad Salim and Jolanta Krucinska) published a paper in the June 2013 issue of Nature Chemical Biology. The work describes the structure of an RNA molecule called the preQ1 class II riboswitch (featured on the journal's cover) that functions as a gene regulatory element for bacteria within the Firmicutes phylum, including human pathogens such as Streptococcus pneumoniae. The RNA structure is bound to the small molecule preQ1, which is the last soluble metabolite in the biosynthetic pathway that produces queuosine, a hypermodified base at the wobble position of certain tRNAs that promotes accurate genetic decoding. Because preQ1 is unique to the bacterial metabolome, the class II preQ1 riboswitch has potential as an antibacterial drug target.

    The research was performed primarily at the University of Rochester and made extensive use of the Structural Biology and Biophysics Facility. The work also required the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource (Menlo Park, CA), as well as Cornell High Energy Synchrotron Source (Ithaca, NY) where crystals were subjected to X-ray diffraction analyses. The work in Wedekind' lab was funded by the National Institutes of Health/ National Institute for General Medical Sciences (NIH/NIGMS).

    The preQ1-II riboswitch structure reveals the chemical details of preQ1 binding in a pocket formed at the junction of three RNA helices. Complementary work from Wedekind's lab showed that preQ1 promotes a more compact shape that leads to blocking of a signal that is necessary for protein synthesis, which leads to lower levels of preQ1 in the cell. Of special note was the lab's observation that the mechanism of action used by the preQ1-II RNA riboswitch is entirely different than that used by the class I preQ1 riboswitch, whose structure and mode of preQ1 binding were reported previously by Wedekind's lab. Overall the results expand the known repertoire of metabolite-binding modes used by regulatory RNAs.

  • May 17, 2013

    Department of Biochemistry & Biophysics Holds Annual Awards Ceremony

    The Department of Biochemistry & Biophysics held its annual Awards Ceremony on Friday, May 17, 2013. Congratulations to our 2013 Graduates:

    Ph.D. Program in Biochemistry:
    • Jennifer DeAngelis
    • Kimberly Dean
    • Rozzy Finn
    • Jason Gloor
    • Chenguang Gong
    • Athena Kantartzis
    • Geoffrey Lippa
    • Jessica McArdle
    • Adam Miller
    • Sharon Pepenella
    • Karyn Schmidt
    • Wen Shen
    • Cody Spencer
    • Guowei Wu
    Ph.D. Program in Biophysics:
    • Prahnesh Akshayalingam Venkataraman
    • Paul Black
    • Zhenjiang Xu

    Our department was particularly honored this year to receive the University of Rochester's prestigious Wallace O. Fenn Award named after the first Chairman of the Department of Physiology. This award is given annually to a graduating student from any program within the Medical Center judged to have completed especially meritorious Ph.D. thesis research. This year, the award was given to two recipients for their thesis originality, creative thinking and excellence in research and both recipients were students from the Department of Biochemistry & Biophysics! Congratulations to Paul Black and Chenguang Gong! For a complete list of all awards, please see the Awards Ceremony Program. Photos of the event can be viewed on the B&B event photos page.

  • May 9, 2013

    David Mathews Heads Working Group Within New Center For Aids Research

    Dr. David Mathews will head one of the primary units within the recently announced $7.5M Center for Aids Research at the University. The NIH-funded center is one of only 18 in the country and brings together University scientists from numerous disciplines. Dr. Mathews, Associate Director of the Center for RNA Biology and Associate Professor within the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, will head the working group focused on the biology of the AIDS virus genome, which is comprised of RNA.

  • April 22, 2013

    URMC Biochemistry Professor Authors Paper in Science

    Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics Professor Mark Dumont was the senior author on a paper published in the March 29, 2013 issue of Science. The work described the structure of the protein Ste24p, one of the proteins responsible for processing lipid-modified proteins in yeast and humans.

    Molecular structure of the protein Ste24p.

    The research was performed in collaboration with scientists from the University of Virginia and the Hauptman Woodward Institute in Buffalo, as part of the Membrane Protein Structural Biology Consortium (MPSBC), funded by the National Institutes of Health Protein Structure Initiative. MPSBC is one of 9 membrane protein structure determina- tion centers established in July 2010 as part of the NIGMS PSI: Biology Initiative.

    MPSBC aims to establish a pipeline to generate multiple target constructs for expression studies followed by pre-crystallization screening to identify stable protein:detergent complexes. The complexes then undergo high-throughput crystallization screening and optimization followed by structure determination. Targets include transporters, transmembrane enzymes involved in lipid synthesis and lipid attachment, and membrane protein complexes.

  • February 25, 2013

    Josh Munger, Ph.D. Discusses Jobs in Biochemistry and Biophysics with the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle

    Joshua Munger was studying to become a veterinarian, but a microbiology requirement in college — in which he learned about the constant fight between host cells and the viruses that attack them — changed everything. There's this evolutionary battle between the two,” he said. “I enjoyed learning about how they're always one-upping each other, how they're always trying to either cause infection or to limit the infection.

    Munger, 37, has been an assistant professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics at the University of Rochester Medical Center since 2008. His work, which looks at how viral infection changes the metabolism of cells, has implications for cancer research and other areas.

  • February 15, 2013

    URMC Biochemistry Professor Named a Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology

    Eric Phizicky, Ph.D.

    Eric M. Phizicky, Ph.D., dean's professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics and member of the University's Center for RNA Biology, has been elected to Fellowship in the American Academy of Microbiology (Academy). The Academy is the honorific leadership group within the American Society for Microbiology (ASM), the world's oldest and largest life science organization. The mission of the Academy is to recognize scientists for outstanding contributions to microbiology and provide microbiological expertise in the service of science and the public.

    Over the last 50 years, over 2,700 distinguished scientists have been elected to the Academy. Fellows are elected through a highly selective, annual, peer review process, based on their records of scientific achievement and original contributions that have advanced microbiology. Each elected Fellow has built an exemplary career in basic and applied research, teaching, clinical and public health, industry or government service. Academy Fellows are eminent leaders in the field of microbiology and are relied upon for authoritative advice and information on critical issues in microbiology. Election to Fellowship indicates recognition of distinction in microbiology by one's peers.

    We couldn't be more pleased that Eric has been awarded this honor and recognition for his excellence and creativity in the microbiological sciences, said Jeffrey J. Hayes, Ph.D., professor and acting chairman of the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics at the Medical Center. On behalf of the department, please join me in offering his well-deserved congratulations!

    Phizicky, who came to the Medical Center in 1987, has spent his career working to understand how tRNA is made and how it does its job in the cell, which is to help with the translation of genes into proteins. His lab also focuses on the design, construction and implementation of genomic methods to analyze protein structure and function, work that's conducted in collaboration with Elizabeth Grayhack, Ph.D., associate professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics.

  • January 10, 2013

    URMC Biochemistry Professor Named University of Rochester 2013 Presidential Diversity Award Recipient

    University of Rochester President Joel Seligman, with 2013 Diversity Award winners Suzanne Piotrowski (THSP), Kevin Graham (THSP), Alyssa Cannarozzo (THSP), Lynne Maquat of the Medical Center, Kim Muratore (THSP), and Vice Provost for Faculty Development & Diversity Vivian Lewis.

    Lynne Maquat, Ph.D., J. Lowell Orbison Endowed Chair & Professor, Biochemistry & Biophysics; Director, University of Rochester Center for RNA Biology: From Genome to Therapeutics; Chair, University of Rochester Graduate Women in Science, has been selected to receive one of two 2013 Presidential Diversity Awards for exemplary contributions to the University's diversity and inclusion efforts. Dr. Maquat is being honored for combining her groundbreaking research agenda with a lifelong commitment to helping women succeed in science. Her remarkable accomplishments include the networking and mentoring programs she initiated as president of the RNA Society; her creation in 2003 of the University of Rochester Graduate Women in Science (GWIS) program; and her award and renewal of an NIH training grant that supports graduate students, including underrepresented minorities, in the cellular, biochemical and molecular sciences.

    The Presidential Diversity Awards were created in 2009 by President Joel Seligman to recognize faculty, staff, students, units, departments or teams that demonstrate a commitment to diversity and inclusion through recruitment and retention efforts, teaching, research, multi-cultural programming, cultural competency, community outreach activities, or other initiatives.

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