LMB scientists Sjors Scheres, Maria Marti Solano and alumnus Tanmay Bharat have all been honoured with awards from the Biochemical Society, an organisation dedicated to promoting the advancement of biochemistry and molecular biology.
Sjors Scheres, a Group Leader and joint Head of Division in the LMB’s Structural Studies Division has won the 2022 AstraZeneca Award. This award is given every three years to recognise exemplary work leading to the development of a new method or reagent. Sjors’ group focuses on visualising the structures of proteins in 3D by determining the exact formation of various arrangements of atoms within proteins. Notably, Sjors has helped develop image processing methods of record-breaking resolution to determine protein structures from electron cryo-microscopy (cryo-EM) images – a breakthrough technique allowing for visualisation of individual atoms. These methods have in turn been implemented around the world to solve numerous protein structures.
Further, his group has, in collaboration with Michel Goedert’s group, expanded these image processing methods to allow for atomic structure determination of amyloid filaments: proteins that are resistant to degradation and form the basis of many diseases. This approach has proved invaluable in studying filaments extracted from the brains of people suffering from various neurodegenerative diseases, such as tau filaments from Alzheimer’s disease. This method of determining protein structures to a high resolution holds boundless possibilities, as an advanced understanding of how proteins work could facilitate the development of specific drugs or treatments for a vast range of diseases.
Sjors commented: “I am thrilled to receive this Award, especially given its focus on methods development. It is very rewarding to develop methods that enable the science of others, and the recognition for the methods developed by our team is wonderful.”
Maria Marti Solano, who joined the LMB in 2018 as a FEBS Long Term and Marie Skłodowska-Curie postdoctoral researcher in Madan Babu’s group, and who is now a member of Lori Passmore’s group, has been awarded the 2022 Early Career Research Award from the Biochemical Society. This medal is reserved for scientists who have no more than six years postdoctoral research experience, yet are already producing international quality research, and demonstrating the ‘ambitions and aspirations consistent with the potential to achieve world-leading status.’
In her work, Maria explores how structural, spatial and inter-individual changes in membrane proteins can result in differences in cell physiology and drug response. In particular, her research has been focused on G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs), a family of membrane proteins involved in the detection of extracellular signals, which are also the target of the majority of drugs available in the clinic. Recently, Maria has used an integrative approach combining data on transcriptomics, genomics, proteomics, receptor sequence and structure, and molecular pharmacology to illustrate how a new layer of complexity in GPCR signalling could explain differences in receptor function and drug response.
Maria commented: “I am delighted to receive this award. I would like to thank my nominators, especially Dr M. Madan Babu, who is not only a really inspiring scientist but also an excellent mentor. Due to its multi-disciplinary nature, my research would not have been possible without the outstanding experimental and computational collaborators I’ve been lucky to work with in the past years, so I’d like to take this chance to thank them all for their continued support.”
Finally, alumnus Tanmay Bharat has been awarded the 2022 Colworth Medal, an annual prize to recognise outstanding research from a biochemist who is within a decade of their PhD completion. Tanmay was a member of Jan Löwe’s group in the Structural Studies Division from 2013 until 2017, and is now a Group Leader at the Sir William Dunn School of Pathology. Tanmay now joins an illustrious group of LMB scientists to receive the medal, including: George Brownlee (1976), Ron Laskey (1979), Terry Rabbitts (1981), Greg Winter (1986), Hugh Pelham (1988), Angus Lamond (1992), David Owen (2003), Sarah Teichmann (2011), Madan Babu (2014), and Melina Schuh (2019).
Alongside the awards, all three recipients have won prize money, the opportunity to present a lecture at a Biochemical Society event, and the invitation to submit an article to a Society-owned publication.