Elyse Fischer, a PhD student in David Barford’s group, has received the inaugural International Union of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (IUBMB) Whelan Young Investigator Award for her work on the molecular mechanisms and regulation of chromosome segregation by the spindle assembly checkpoint (SAC), a key surveillance mechanism that ensures that chromosomes are separated equally into two daughter cells during cell division.
The IUBMB Whelan Young Investigator Award is named after Bill Whelan, a biochemist known for his work on the structure of starch and glycogen as well as the mechanisms of enzymatic synthesis and degradation of these glucose storage molecules. Bill is also a former President of IUBMB and a co-founder of the Federation of Biochemical Societies (FEBS). This award has been created to recognise his lifelong commitment to training the future of biochemistry. The award will celebrate highly promising young investigators in biochemistry and molecular biology.
During cell division, the DNA in our chromosomes must be duplicated and equally distributed between the two daughter cells. This process is tightly controlled as errors underlie cancers and developmental defects. One checkpoint in control of this is the SAC that ensures that all chromosomes are appropriately lined up and attached to the microtubules that will pull sister chromatids in opposite directions. A key effector of the SAC is the mitotic checkpoint complex (MCC) which binds and inactivates the E3 ubiquitin ligase, the anaphase promoting complex (APC). Using X-ray crystallography and NMR, Elyse’s work, which will soon be under review, has provided structural insights into the phosphorylation-dependent assembly of the MCC onto kinetochores, providing a fuller understanding of this fundamental biological process.
As well as a certificate, award cube, and $1,000 prize, Elyse will deliver a lecture at the Young Scientists Program held in conjunction with the Triennial Congress of IUBMB due to be held in Lisbon in 2022 and will write a review for the journal IUBMB Life. Elyse commented:
“I am extremely honoured to accept the inaugural IUBMB Whelan Young Investigator Award. Bill Whelan’s extensive scientific achievements, as well as his commitment to scientific training, makes it even more of an honour to receive this award. I am also excited that this allows me to share my work with a wider audience and to engage with more enthusiastic young scientists around the world.”