Two UCSF scientists receive top funding honor from medical institute

Two UCSF professors were named today (March 21) as Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigators, a highly prized honor that carries significant, long-term research support.

The investigators are Joseph DeRisi, PhD, UCSF associate professor of biochemistry, and Kevan Shokat, PhD, UCSF professor of cellular and molecular pharmacology.

They are among 43 scientists from 31 institutions nationwide named as new recipients of the honor.

At UCSF, 15 other UCSF scientists also hold the prestigious HHMI investigator status, among the highest number of any institution.

DeRisi, who holds the Gordon M. Tomkins Chair, helped pioneer the field of microarray technology, in which gene activity is revealed on a glass slide. He has used the microarrays he designed to make major advances in understanding such infectious diseases as SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) and malaria.

Shokat, a leader in the new field of chemical genetics, has developed a number of innovative techniques to tease apart the function of vital signaling molecules, called protein kinases, that are active in all cells. These proteins are responsible for most of the molecule-to-molecule communication in cells--cascades of signals that direct movement and metabolism, cancer and cell death.

Highlights of their research include:

JOSEPH DERISI -- In 2002, DeRisi and his former postdoctoral fellow used a microarray they had created--which can detect all known viruses and even those never seen before--to provide the confirming evidence that SARS was a novel form of a coronavirus. He is now using the tool to move in on other viruses, as well.

His greatest passion, however, is working to illuminate the life cycle and internal regulatory mechanisms of the malaria parasite, Plasmodium falciparum, which infects 200 to 300 million people world wide each year, mostly in tropical climates, such as sub Saharan Africa. The disease kills 700,000 to 2.7 mi

Contact: Jennifer O'Brien
University of California - San Francisco

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