Weill Cornell Medical College The Rockefeller University Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center

Apply Online Application Due: December 1, 2013


November 2016

Yueming Li Elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science

TPCB faculty member Prof. Yueming Li at Sloan Kettering has been elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. This honorific recognizes AAAS members whose efforts on behalf of the advancement of science or its applications in service to society have distinguished them among their peers and colleagues. Prof. Li is a leader in studying the function, regulation, and inhibition of intramembrane proteases, the most prominent of which is γ-secretase, the enzyme implicated in Alzheimer’s disease. He began his career at Merck Research Laboratories in 1997 where he led the team that discovered presenillin as the catalytic subunit of γ-secretase. He joined the Sloan Kettering and the TPCB faculty in 2002, where his lab has continued to elucidate the components of the γ-secretase complex using biochemical and chemical approaches, reconstituted γ-secretase using recombinant proteins, and studied its functional roles in neurodegenerative disorders and cancer. [Read more]

October 2016

Sebastian Klinge Receives $1.5M NIH New Innovator Award

Prof. Sebastian Klinge at Rockefeller has been awarded a prestigious Director’s New Innovator grant by the NIH. This $1.5 million, five-year grant will support his lab’s research into assembly of the eukaryotic ribosome. Ribosomes are essential molecular machines that catalyze protein synthesis in cells. The lab’s research focuses on elucidating both the structural anatomy of the ribosome assembly machinery as well as the underlying biochemical transformations involved in the assembly process. Prof. Klinge joined the Rockefeller faculty as an Assistant Professor in 2013 and joined the TPCB faculty shortly thereafter. He is the seventh TPCB faculty member to have received NIH Director’s New Innovator Award since the program’s inception in 2007. [Read more at: Rockefeller | NIH]

September 2016

Bachovchin Lab Identifies New Mechanistic Pathway in Cancer Immunotherapy

Cancer immunotherapies, drugs that induce the immune system to attack tumor cells, show great promise in the clinic. However, limitations associated with existing therapies create the impetus to explore new immunotherapeutic mechanisms. Reporting in Nature Chemical Biology, Prof. Daniel Bachovchin and his group at Sloan Kettering, which includes TPCB students Darren Johnson, Eun Bin Go, and Ashley Chui, describe a small molecule that stimulates an immune response against cancer through an unusual mechanism called pyroptosis. Pyroptosis is a form of immune cell death wherein the cell swells, bursts, and releases pro-inflammatory signaling molecules into the environment, which then triggers an immune response. The small molecule Val-boroPro, originally designed to inhibit the serine protease DPP4, is known to induce persistent tumor immunity in mice. However, the mechanism of this immunoresponse had remained a mystery. The Bachovchin lab used activity-based protein profiling to test Val-boroPro for inhibition of ≈100 recombinant serine hydrolases in biochemical assays. They discovered that the molecule potently inhibits DPP8 and DPP9 and that inhibition of these two serine proteases leads to direct activation of pro-caspase-1. The activated pro-protein fails to self-cleave to mature caspase-1 and instead cleaves and activates gasdermin D, leading to induction of pyroptosis in two types of immune cells. Val-boroPro is the first small molecule known to induce an immunoresponse through pyroptosis. Further studies into this immune response mechanism could lead to a new class of cancer immunotherapeutics. [Read more | Read the article in: Nat. Chem. Biol.]

Luciano Marraffini Named HHMI-Simons Faculty Scholar

TPCB faculty member Prof. Luciano Marraffini at Rockefeller has been named a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Faculty Scholar. This new program supports early-career scientists who have great potential to make unique contributions to their fields and was established recently by HHMI, The Simons Foundation, and The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Prof. Marraffini’s lab studies the fundamental mechanisms behind CRISPR-based immunity in bacteria and other microorganisms. The system enables the bacteria to remember the DNA sequences of invading phages, so they can cleave viral DNA upon subsequent infections. In 2008, while a postdoc at Northwestern University, Dr. Marraffini demonstrated that CRISPR immunity targets the DNA of the invader, rather than the RNA as previously thought. More recently, his lab at Rockefeller has gained important insights into the roles of the enzyme Cas9 in acquisition and implementation of this immunity, as well as our understanding of how bacteria distinguish between harmful and beneficial viruses. Prof. Marraffini joined the Rockefeller faculty in 2010 and was promoted to Associate Professor earlier this year. [Read more at: Rockefeller | HHMI]

Yael David, Richard Hite, and Pengbo Zhou Hoin the TPCB Faculty

TPCB recently welcomed three new faculty members to the program, bringing diverse research interests in chemical epigenetics, ion channel structure, and protein degradation.

Prof. Yael David of Memorial Sloan Kettering is using a novel semisynthetic approach to generate histone proteins bearing specific post-translational modifications that impact chromatin remodeling. Her lab is interested in probing the roles and regulation of these epigenetic modifications in cancer biology and neuroscience. She received her PhD in 2011 from The Weizmann Institute under the guidance of Prof. Ami Navon. From 2011–2016, she carried out postdoctoral training in Prof. Tom Muir’s lab at Princeton. Prof. David joined TPCB and the MSK faculty in September 2016. [Read more]

Prof. Richard Hite of Memorial Sloan Kettering is interested in studying the structures and functions of lysosomal cation channels that regulate lysosomal trafficking, fusion, and catabolite efflux. His lab leverages expertise in cryo-electron microscopy, X-ray crystallography, biochemistry, and biophysics to elucidate mechanisms of gating and selectivity in these channels. He carried out his PhD studies with Prof. Thomas Walz at Harvard, graduating in 2010. He then joined Prof. Rod MacKinnon’s lab at Rockefeller for his postdoctoral training from 2011–2016. Prof. Hite joined TPCB and the MSK faculty in September 2016. [Read more]

Prof. Pengbo Zhou of Weill Cornell studies the molecular mechanisms by which ubiquitin-dependent proteolysis operates under physiological conditions and how dysregulation of the ubiqutin-proteasome pathway contributes to cancer and neurological diseases. His lab uses a combination of chemical, biochemical, cell and molecular biological, and mouse genetic approaches to study the Cullin family of ubiquitin ligases as potential anticancer drug targets. Prof. Zhou has been a member of the Weill Cornell faculty since 1999. [Read more]

August 2016

Chemical Biology Shines at the 12th Annual Tri-Institutional Symposium

TPCB hosted the 12th Annual Chemical Biology Symposium on August 17, 2016 at MSK. The student-organized event was attended by over 180 undergraduates, graduate students, postdocs, staff scientists, and faculty, and included seminars by emminent faculty keynote speakers and TPCB students, and a vibrant poster session highlighting chemical biology research across the Tri-Institutional Research Program. Prof. Matthew Shair from Harvard kicked off the day with an enthralling presentation of his lab’s work using small-molecule inhibitors based on the natural product cortistatin to study the role of Mediator complex kinases in leukemia. TPCB student Adam Levinson, from the lab of Prof. Samuel Danishefsky, then presented his impressive total synthesis of the D-enantiomer of the K-Ras oncoprotein for inhibitor discovery using mirror image phage display. Prof. Ming Hammond from Berkeley shared her lab’s exciting research on riboswitch-based approaches to studying bacterial and immune signaling. TPCB student Malik Chaker-Margot closed out the morning session with his seminal work illuminating stage-specific assembly of processome proteins involved in maturation of the eukaryotic ribosome.

Symposium participants then enjoyed lunch and a poster session featuring the latest research advances from chemical biology students, staff, and faculty from labs across the entire Tri-Institutional Research Program. Poster awards went to Zhen Chen (Kapoor Lab, RU), Alexis Jaramillo (Darst Lab, RU), John Zinder (Lima Lab, MSK), and Matthew Streeter (David Spiegel Lab, Yale University). In the afternoon, TPCB faculty member Prof. Scott Blanchard of Weill Cornell presented his lab’s exciting new work on single-molecule imaging of integral membrane proteins. TPCB student Rudolf Píša followed by sharing his work in the lab of Prof. Tarun Kapoor at Rockefeller to develop selective small-molecule inhibitors of AAA+ enzymes. Finally, Prof. Laura Kiessling from the University of Wisconsin-Madison spoke about her lab’s intriguing recent discovery of selective microbial carbohydrate binding by the human intelectin-1 protein. The day concluded with a reception at which students, postdocs, and faculty continued to discuss the latest exciting advances in chemical biology. The event was co-chaired by TPCB students Michaelyn Lux (Tan Lab, MSK) and Jacob Litke (Jaffrey Lab, Weill Cornell), with support from TPCB faculty mentor Prof. Daniel Heller (MSK), and received generous promotional and poster prize support from ACS Chemical Biology, Nature Chemical Biology, the Royal Society of Chemistry, and the New York Academy of Sciences.

Lewis Cantley and Neal Rosen Named NCI Outstanding Investigators

TPCB faculty members Prof. Lewis Cantley at Weill Cornell and Prof. Neal Rosen at Sloan Kettering have received Outstanding Investigator Awards from the National Cancer Institute. These prestigious grants were established in 2015 to support to accomplished investigators with outstanding records of cancer research productivity who propose to conduct exceptional research. The $4.2M award provides long-term support over a seven-year period and is intended to allow investigators the opportunity to take greater risks and be more adventurous in their research. [Read more]

Prof. Cantley’s research focuses on studying the biochemical pathways by which oncogenes mediate changes in cellular metabolism, growth, and transformation. His lab discovered the phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K) enzymes in 1984 and has found that the PI3K pathway controls cell growth primarily through regulation of cellular metabolism. His lab is now investigating drug combinations with PI3K inhibitors that are likely to be more effective than single inhibitors. They are also developing small-molecule inhibitors of phosphatidylinositol-5-phosphate 4-kinases to investigate the cellular functions of these enzymes and their potential as new therapeutic targets. Prof. Cantley began his career at Harvard and Tufts and joined Weill Cornell and the TPCB faculty in 2012. [Read more]

Prof. Rosen’s lab studies signal transduction pathways that cause dysregulation of growth and inhibition of apoptosis in advanced human cancers. His current research focuses on understanding the roles of feedback inhibition by oncoproteins in both physiologic and oncogenic signaling. This work has critical implications for the use of small molecule anticancer drugs that inhibit oncoprotein-activated signaling but concurrently reactivate physiologic signaling pathways and promises to enable the development of rational combination therapies that target these reactivated pathways. Prof. Rosen began his career at the NCI and joined the Sloan Kettering faculty in 1992. He has been a TPCB faculty member since the program’s inception in 2001. [Read more]

July 2016

TPCB Student Hala Iqbal Develops New Platform for Metagenomic Natural Product Discovery

Bacteria have historically served as a rich source of novel natural products with diverse biological activities, including many clinically used drugs. However, the vast majority of bacteria cannot be cultured in the lab, so identifying natural products from these bacteria requires development of methods for heterologous expression of the underlying biosynthetic genes from metagenomic sources such as soil samples. To address this problem, recent TPCB graduate Hala Iqbal, PhD and Prof. Sean Brady at Rockefeller have screened a collection of 39 strains of Streptomyces bacteria for their ability to support heterologous expression of natural product biosynthetic pathways. Streptomyces are well known to produce diverse natural products native to the individual strains, but have thus far been of limited utility for heterologous expression. They identified Streptomyces albus as the most effective heterologous host, then used it to screen over one million metagenomic DNA cosmids. This led to the discovery of a novel tricyclic natural product, which they named metatricycloene. This new heterologous expression platform should now facilitate discovery of other natural products with novel structures and biological activities. [Read the article in: J. Am. Chem. Soc.]

TPCB Graduate Amrita Hazra Launches Her Independent Lab at IISER-Pune

Congratulations to TPCB alumna Amrita Hazra, PhD who recently joined the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER), Pune as an Assistant Professor in Chemistry & Biology. Prof. Hazra’s lab investigates the genetic pathways and molecular and enzymatic mechanisms involved in microbial metabolism. [Read more]

She joins four other TPCB alumni in tenure-track faculty positions:

Jarrod French, PhD (Assistant Professor, Department of Biochemistry & Cell Biology, Stony Brook University) studies the structure, function, and control of enzymes and enzyme complexes involved in cellular metabolism. [Read more]

Niroshika Keppetipola, PhD (Assistant Professor, Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry, California State University Fullerton) explores how posttranslational modifications alter the activity of splicing factors and, in turn, cellular gene expression. [Read more]

Jayakrishnan Nandakumar, PhD (Assistant Professor, Department of Molecular, Cellular, & Developmental Biology, University of Michigan) investigates how telomeres and telomerase participate in cancer, stem cell fitness, aging, and genome stability. [Read more]

Brian Zoltowski, PhD (Assistant Professor, Department of Chemistry, Southern Methodist University) studies the molecular mechanisms of blue-light photoreceptors. [Read more]

TPCB’s over 60 PhD alumni have used their training in chemical biology to pursue research careers in universities, major pharmaceutical companies, biotechnology firms, research institutes, and government labs, and to take up leading positions in science policy, outreach, education, consulting, and patent law. [Read more]

May 2016

David Scheinberg Wins Award for Excellence in Teaching and Mentoring

TPCB faculty member Prof. David A. Scheinberg at Sloan Kettering has been awarded the 2016 Excellence in Teaching and Mentoring Award by the Weill Cornell Graduate School, in recognition of his exceptional efforts in mentoring both graduate students and junior faculty during his 26 years on the faculty. Since joining the WCGS faculty in 1990, Prof. Scheinberg has trained 24 PhD graduate students and 34 postdoctoral fellows, many of whom have gone onto successful careers in academia and industry. Prof. Scheinberg was nominated by former trainees who cited his steadfast support, scientific creativity, and collaborative spirit as critical to their success in tackling challenging new problems in chemical biology and biomedical research. This award also recognizes Prof. Scheinberg’s efforts over the last 15 years to recruit and mentor junior faculty, including current TPCB faculty members Prof. Derek Tan, Prof. Yueming Li, Prof. Gabriela Chiosis, Prof. Minkui Luo, Prof. Alex Kentsis, and Prof. Daniel Heller. In this role, he was instrumental in building the chemical biology research program at MSK.

Prof. Scheinberg received his AB from Cornell University and completed his MD-PhD training at Johns Hopkins. He then carried out his internship and residency at Weill Cornell, then continued onto a fellowship in oncology-pharmacology at MSK. He joined the faculty in 1989 was promoted through the ranks to Member at MSK and Professor at Weill Cornell in 1999. He served as Chairman of the MSK Molecular Pharmacology & Chemistry Program from 2001–2015 and is currently Chairman of the Molecular Pharmacology Program. Prof. Scheinberg has also co-chaired the WCGS Pharmacology graduate program since 1990 with Prof. Lorraine Gudas of Weill Cornell, also a TPCB faculty member. [Read more]

Kentsis Lab Research Program Featured on Humans of New York

TPCB faculty member Prof. Alex Kentsis and his lab’s research program has been featured by Humans of New York for his important work in pediatric cancer research. Prof. Kentsis notes that advances in understanding the molecular basis for cancers are leading to new opportunities for therapy. His research program in chemical biology uses next-generation proteomic approaches to investigate the mechanisms by which genomes and proteomes of tumors are disorganized and to use this information to develop rational cancer therapies. Humans of New York was created by photojournalist Brandon Stanton in 2010 to feature photographs and interviews collected on the streets of New York City. Prof. Kentsis’s lab was featured as part of a Humans of New York fundraising campaign for pediatric cancer research at MSK that raised over $3.8 million in one month, from over 100,000 individuals. [Read more]

NYAS 2016 Chemical Biology Symposium Focuses on Chemical Approches to Epigenetics

TPCB partnered with the New York Academy of Sciences to present the annual year-end NYAS Chemical Biology Symposium on May 25, 2016. The meeting is part of the NYAS Chemical Biology Discussion Group series, which brings together numerous chemical biology laboratories from the greater NYC area to promote collaborations and exchanges of ideas. This year’s symposium featured two keynote speakers Prof. Philip A. Cole of Johns Hopkins and Dr. Kenneth W. Duncan of Epizyme. Prof. Cole spoke about his work using chemical approaches to study acetylation and methylation of protein lysine residues. Dr. Duncan presented Epizyme’s work to develop novel small-molecule anticancer drugs that target methyltransferase enzymes. Numerous students and postdoctoral fellows from participating NYC-area institutions presented talks and posters, including several from TPCB labs. [Read more]

January 2016

Lewis Cantley Awarded 2016 Wolf Prize in Medicine for Discovery of PI3K

TPCB faculty member Prof. Lewis Cantley of Weill Cornell has been awarded the 2016 Wolf Prize in Medicine by the Wolf Foundation. Prof. Cantley is recognized for his groundbreaking discovery of the enzyme phosphoinositide-3-kinase (PI3K) and the signaling pathway that it controls. PI3K is aberrantly activated in various cancers and the first drug targeting this enzyme, idelalisib, was recently approved for the treatment of chronic lymphocytic leukemia. Prof. Cantley will share the award with Prof. C. Ronald Kahn of Harvard Medical School, with whom he has collaborated to elucidate links between insulin, PI3K, and diabetes. Prof. Cantley is also the Director of the Sandra and Edward Meyer Cancer Center. [Read more]

December 2015

Angelica Ferguson and Scott Blanchard Probe Structural Dynamics in Ribosomal Translation

Protein translation requires carefully orchestrated motions of tRNAs through the ribosome active site. To probe these events in real time, TPCB student Angelica Ferguson and TPCB faculty member Prof. Scott Blanchard at Weill Cornell have used state-of-the-art, single-molecule fluorescence imaging approaches to monitor conformational transitions of tRNAs during protein translation. By labeling three individual tRNAs with distinct fluorescent dyes, they used FRET (Förster resonance energy transfer) imaging to measure distance changes between the tRNAs during single-turnover and processive translation reactions. This revealed hidden sub-states of tRNA motions that are stabilized by ribosome-targeting small-molecule antibiotics, providing new insights into the molecular mechanisms of action of these compounds. They also discovered long-range allosteric interactions between spatially separated tRNA binding sites, shedding new light on how conformational dynamics can regulate processive translation. This platform will be invaluable for future studies into the impacts of various protein factors and small-molecule inhibitors on ribosome dynamics. [Read the article in: Mol. Cell]

November 2015

Gabriela Chiosis, Tarun Kapoor, and Derek Tan Quoted as Voices of Chemical Biology

As part of its 10th anniversary, Nature Chemical Biology asked leading chemical biologists for their views on a variety of issues pertinent to the field. Three TPCB faculty members were quoted during the series, which appeared throughout 2015. Prof. Gabriela Chiosis of Sloan Kettering offered her definition of chemical biology in the June issue, her views on the most important contributions of the field in the July issue, and her advice to young chemical biologists in the November issue. Prof. Tarun Kapoor of Rockefeller and Prof. Derek Tan of Sloan Kettering both shared their thoughts on what they valued most about being part of the chemical biology community in the October issue. Prof. Tan also cited effective communication between chemists and biologists as one of the most significant challenges in the field in the August issue. [Read the articles in Nat. Chem. Biol.: June | July | August | October | November]

October 2015

Malik Chaker-Margot and Sebastian Klinge Probe Ribosome Assembly Machinery

The ribosome is a complex molecular machine that is comprised of 79 proteins and four rRNA components in eukaryotes. Ribosome assembly is an elaborate process that occurs while the pre-rRNA precursor is being transcribed. The earliest part of this process is carefully coordinated by the ‘small-subunit processome’, a complex of some 70 proteins, many of whose functions are unknown. To determine the temporal order in which small-subunit processome components associate with pre-rRNA at various stages of its transcription, TPCB student Malik Chaker-Margot and TPCB faculty member Prof. Sebastian Klinge at Rockefeller have developed a novel chemical biology approach involving affinity purification of complexes formed on truncated pre-rRNAs of various lengths. They then used mass spectrometry to identify the proteins associated with each truncated pre-rRNA, leading them to propose a revised model for early eukaryotic ribosome assembly involving consecutive recruitment of small-subunit processome components on pre-rRNA domains. This work provides fundamental insights into ribosome assembly and may one day lead to new therapies for rare human disorders that arise from defects in this process. [Read more | Read the article in: Nat. Struct. Mol. Biol. | Read highlight in: Nat. Struct. Mol. Biol.]

Nikola Pavletich Elected to National Academy of Medicine

TPCB faculty member Prof. Nikola Pavletich at Sloan Kettering has been elected to the National Academy of Medicine, formerly the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies. Membership in the Academy is one of the highest honors in the fields of health and medicine and recognizes individuals for outstanding professional achievement and commitment to service. Prof. Pavletich is a leading structural biologist whose work focuses on X-ray crystallographic and biochemical studies of proteins that play key roles in pathways altered in cancer, including the DNA damage response and cell cycle. He joins TCPB faculty member Prof. Lewis Cantley of Weill Cornell, who was elected to the Academy last year. Prof. Pavletich is also Chairman of the Structural Biology Program at Sloan Kettering and has been a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator since 1997. [Read more at: National Academy of Medicine | The Cancer Letter | The ASCO Post]

September 2015

Kapoor and Chait Labs Shed Light on Fundamental Process of DNA Repair

TPCB faculty members Prof. Tarun Kapoor and Prof. Brian Chait, both at Rockefeller, have collaborated to gain new molecular insights into the recruitment of DNA repair proteins to damaged sites on chromosomes. Using a quantitative chemical proteomic method that the team first reported in 2012, involving photochemical cross-linking, they discovered that a DNA repair protein known as 53BP1 interacts with phosphorylated histone H2AX, a post-translational modification that occurs in response to DNA damage. Such findings are vital to our understanding of disease etiology and may aid in the development of drugs that target DNA repair. [Read more | Read the article in: Nat. Chem. Biol.]

Derek Tan Featured in CUNY “Science Forward” Video Series

Prof. Derek Tan, TPCB Director and faculty member at Sloan Kettering, is one of the scientists featured in the “Science Forward” video series produced by the Macaulay Honors College at the City University of New York (CUNY). In the video on “Drug Development and Discovery”, Prof. Tan talks about the wide range of skills and approaches chemical biologists use to design and synthesize new potential drugs. Viewers can catch a glimpse of Prof. Tan’s lab as well as TPCB student Michaelyn Lux in action. In the final video series, “Scientific Uncertainty”, Prof. Tan is quoted on the exciting role of uncertainty in his research. [View the videos]

August 2015

TPCB Symposium Highlights Chemical Biology Research Across Tri-Institutional Program

TPCB hosted the 11th Annual Chemical Biology Symposium on August 28, 2015 at MSK, bringing together chemical biology students and faculty from across the Tri-Institutional Research Program and other institutions in New York City. The program featured four distinguished keynote speakers: Prof. Catherine L. Drennan from MIT, Prof. Sarah E. Reisman from Caltech, Prof. Peter G. Schultz from Scripps, and TPCB faculty member Prof. Morgan Huse from MSK. TPCB students Angelica Ferguson (Blanchard Lab, Weill Cornell), Adam Trotta (Danishefsky Lab, MSK), and Stefanie Gerstberger (Tuschl Lab, Rockefeller) also gave oral presentations on their thesis research. The event featured posters from over 30 students and postdocs from across the Tri-Institutional Research Program, with Best Poster Awards given to John Zinder (Lima Lab, MSK), David Iaea (Maxfield Lab), Weill Cornell, and Alexis Jaramillo (Darst Lab, RU).

July 2015

Daniel Bachovchin, Steven Gross, Xuejun Jiang, and Shixin Liu Join the TPCB Faculty

TPCB recently welcomed four new faculty members to the program, bringing diverse research interests in serine proteases, metabolomics, cell death, and gene regulation.

Prof. Daniel Bachovchin of Memorial Sloan Kettering is interested in characterizing the roles that serine proteases play in cancer and immune system signaling using activity-based protein profiling, chemical probes, and genome engineering. He received his PhD in 2011 from The Scripps Research Institute under the guidance of Prof. Benjamin F. Cravatt. From 2011–2015, he was a postdoctoral fellow in Prof. Todd Golub’s laboratory at The Broad Institute. Prof. Bachovchin joined TPCB and the Sloan Kettering faculty in September 2015. [Read more]

Prof. Steven Gross of Weill Cornell Cornell is a leader in the use of mass spectrometry for the analysis of complex biological samples and has had a long-standing research focus on defining the mechanisms of cell signaling by nitric oxide. Most recently, he has established an untargeted metabolite profiling (aka metabolomics) platform to elucidate the broad consequences of genetic and chemical perturbations in vivo. Prof. Gross is an NIH MERIT Awardee and has been a member of the Weill Cornell faculty since 1988. [Read more]

Prof. Xuejun Jiang of Memorial Sloan Kettering is a leader in studying the molecular basis of critical cellular processes involved in programmed cell death, autophagy, and regulation of tumor suppressors. His lab uses chemical genetic approaches to study new potential therapeutic targets and develops new small molecule inhibitors of those targets. Prof. Jiang has been a member of the Memorial Sloan Kettering faculty since 2003. [Read more]

Prof. Shixin Liu of Rockefeller is a a biophysicist who studies the interaction, cooperation, and competition among molecular machines involved in gene regulation at the single-molecule level and genome wide. He completed his PhD in chemistry at Harvard in 2009, working with Prof. Xiaowei Zhuang, and has carried out his postdoctoral studies at UC Berkeley with Prof. Carlos Bustamante. Prof. Liu will join TPCB and establish the Laboratory of Nanoscale Biophysics and Biochemistry at Rockefeller in January 2016. [Read more]

TPCB Welcomes Incoming Class of 2015

TPCB welcomed eleven new students to the program: Ashley Chui (Cal State Fullerton), Hatice Didar Ciftci (Boğaziçi University), Emma Garst (Mount Holyoke College), Eun Bin Go (Harvey Mudd College), Darren Johnson (Townson University), Jonghan Lee (Hong Kong University), Rachel Leicher (Wesleyan University), Fangyu Liu (McGill University), Linamarie Miller (Williams College), Nikita Petukhov (Rice University), and Zheng Ser (Cornell University). Our new students represent diverse backgrounds and research interests in chemical biology and have started their first laboratory rotations.

May 2015

Olga Boudker Named HHMI Investigator

TPCB faculty member Prof. Olga Boudker of Weill Cornell Medical College has been selected as a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator. She is one of 26 selected in the recent competition from nearly 900 applicants. Prof. Boudker’s laboratory uses structural, biophysical, and protein engineering techniques to understanding the mechanisms of membrane transporters. She joins TPCB’s other five HHMI investigators: Jue Chen, Jonathan Goldberg, Christopher Lima, Roderick MacKinnon, and Nikola Pavletich. [Read more at: Weill Cornell | HHMI]

Adam Levinson Receives Honorable Mention for 2015 Rachele Prize

Congratulations to TPCB student Adam Levinson who received an Honorable Mention for the Julian R. Rachele research paper prize! Established in 1983, the Rachele Prize is the highest award given to students by the Weill Cornell Graduate School and is awarded to a PhD candidate for an original research paper on which the candidate is a major author. Adam was recognized for his sole-author paper describing the total synthesis of the alkaloid natural product aspeverin, published in Organic Letters. He is now working on the total chemical synthesis of the K-Ras protein. Adam completed his BS degree in Chemistry at Emory University and is carrying out his PhD studies with Prof. Samuel Danishefsky at Sloan Kettering. [Read the article in: Org. Lett.]

TPCB Congratulates Our 2015 Graduates

Congratulations to the TPCB’s 2015 graduates Gil Blum (Luo Lab, Sloan Kettering), Ian Bothwell (Luo Lab, Sloan Kettering), Roman Subbotin (Chait Lab, Rockefeller) and He Tian (Sakmar Lab, Rockefeller). Our graduates received their degrees at the Weill Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences graduation ceremony on May 28, 2015 at Carnegie Hall. Students in Sloan Kettering labs were also recognized at the Gerstner Sloan Kettering Commencement Ceremony on May 21, 2015. Students in Rockefeller labs will be recognized at The Rockefeller University Commencement Ceremony on June 11, 2015.

Gil Blum, PhD – “Remodeling SETD8: A Holistic Approach for the Study of Protein Methyl Transferases (PMT’s)”, Postdoctoral Fellow, Prof. Minkui Luo, Sloan Kettering Institute

Ian Bothwell, PhD – “Development and Application of Chemical Tools for the Study of SAM-Dependent Methyltranferases”, Postdoctoral Fellow, Prof. Wilfred van der Donk, University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign

Roman Subbotin, PhD – “A Method for Determining Protein-Protein Interactions and Proximities in the Cellular Milieu”, Postdoctoral Fellow, Prof. Brian Chait, The Rockefeller University

He Tian, PhD – “Development of Novel Chemical Biology Tools for Probing Structure-Function Relationship in G Protein Coupled Receptors”, Postdoctoral Fellow, Prof. Thomas Sakmar, The Rockefeller University

NYAS 2015 Chemical Biology Symposium Brings Together Labs from NYC and Beyond

TPCB partnered once again with the New York Academy of Sciences to present the annual NYAS Chemical Biology Symposium on May 18, 2015. The meeting is presented by the NYAS Chemical Biology Discussion Group, which brings together students, postdocs, and faculty from the NYC area and beyond to discuss the latest research in chemical biology. This year’s symposium featured keynote speaker Prof. Scott J. Miller of Yale University, who presented his lab’s latest work in catalyst development for the selective functionalization of complex molecules. TPCB students also presented their work in a vibrant poster session, alongside colleagues from Columbia, Yale, Princeton, U. Penn, NYU, Stony Brook, Hunter College, Mount Sinai, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, U. Delaware, Rutgers, and Seton Hall. [Read more]

April 2015

TPCB Founding Leader Joins Weill Cornell Medical College to Advance Cancer Research

Dr. Harold Varmus, co-founder of the TPCB program, joins Weill Cornell Medical College’s faculty as the Lewis Thomas University Professor of Medicine and will collaborate with investigators at the Sandra and Edward Meyer Cancer Center, led by Meyer Director and TPCB faculty member Prof. Lewis C. Cantley. Dr. Varmus was the President of the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center from 2000–2010 and was instrumental in the founding of the Tri-Institutional Research Program. He most recently Director of the National Cancer Institute until March 2015. Dr. Varmus was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine with J. Michael Bishop in 1989 for the discovery of the cellular origin of retroviral oncogenes. [Read more]

Stewart Shuman Elected Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences

TPCB faculty member Prof. Stewart Shuman at Memorial Sloan Kettering has been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Prof. Shuman’s lab has led important research into the evolution and mechanisms of viral and microbial enzymes involved in the metabolism of nucleic acids, including processes such as mRNA synthesis and processing, and DNA repair and recombination. His wide-ranging discoveries have shed light on some of the most basic aspects of molecular biology, including how cells safeguard their genetic material and how genes are regulated. He joins four other TPCB faculty members as Fellows: C. David Allis (2001), Samuel Danishefsky (1984), Dinshaw Patel (2014), and Nikola Pavletich (2014). [Read more]

David Iaea Awarded NIH Fellowship

Congratulations to TPCB student David Iaea, who has been awarded a Ruth Kirschstein Predoctoral Fellowship from the National Institutes of Health! This fellowship will support David’s research on the structure and function of the sterol transport protein STARD4 with TPCB faculty Prof. Fred Maxfield at Weill Cornell. David has a Bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry from New York University and is interested in studying the mechanisms that mediate cholesterol distribution and homeostasis.

March 2015

Michaelyn Lux and Chaya Stern Awarded NSF Graduate Fellowships

Congratulations to TPCB students Michaelyn Lux and Chaya Stern who have been awarded a National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship. They join a select group of 2,000 awardees among 16,500 applicants nationwide. Michaelyn Lux is working with Prof. Derek Tan at Sloan Kettering on the synthesis of novel anticancer agents inspired by natural products. Michaelyn received her Bachelor’s degree in Chemistry from Michigan State University and is interested in studying organic chemistry and its applications to biological problems. Chaya Stern is working with Prof. John Chodera at Sloan Kettering in collaboration with Prof. Harel Weinstein and Prof. Scott Blanchard at Weill Cornell on combining single-molecule experiments with massively distributed molecular dynamics simulations to study G-protein coupled receptor dynamics. Chaya received her Bachelor’s degree in Chemistry from Brooklyn College and is interested in combining theory and experiments within a quantitative and testable framework to study biological macromolecules. [Read more]

Lewis Cantley Wins 2015 Canada Gairdner International Award

TPCB faculty member Prof. Lewis Cantley of Weill Cornell Medical College has won the 2015 Canada Gairdner International Award from the Gairdner Foundation for his groundbreaking discovery of phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K) and the signaling pathway that it controls. The Canada Gairdner International Awards are given annually to five biomedical scientists from around the world whose significant contributions to medicine have increased the understanding of human biology and disease. [Read more]

Minkui Luo Receives 2015 Eli Lilly Award in Biological Chemistry

TPCB faculty member Prof. Minkui Luo of Sloan Kettering has been awarded the 2015 Eli Lilly Award in Biological Chemistry from the American Chemical Society in recognition of his contributions to implement chemical tools to study biologically relevant enzymes. Prof. Luo’s focuses on functional annotation and pharmacological perturbation of protein methyltransferases (PMTs). The award recognizes his accomplishments in developing the novel Bioorthogonal Profiling of Protein Methylation (BPPM) technology to profile proteome-wide/genome-wide methylation events of designated PMTs; and leveraging unconventional strategies to access PMT inhibitors within the scope of PMT perturbation in general and disease therapy in particular. [Read more]

February 2015

TPCB Faculty Collaboration Reveal New Insights into the Function of Transporters in the Brain

Healthy brain function depends upon communication between neurons carried out by neurotransmitters. After a neuron in the brain communicates with a neighboring neuron by releasing a burst of the neurotransmitter glutamate, those molecules must be cleared away rapidly to shut off the signal and ready cells for the next communication. Impaired glutamate transporter function is linked to neurodegeneration, brain damage following stroke and other disorders. TPCB faculty members Prof. Scott Blanchard and Prof. Olga Boudker and their labs at Weill Cornell have used a combination of single-molecule, X-ray crystallographic, and computational techniques to study glutamate transporters that shuttle this neurotransmitter across the cell membrane. Strikingly, they discovered that the glutamate transporter operates like an elevator, with a large portion of the protein gliding back and forth inside a membrane-embedded scaffold as it shuttles its cargo. This “elevator model” is entirely different from how other transporters were known to function. Their discoveries were made possible through collaborative efforts with Prof. Harel Weinstein at Weill Cornell and Prof. Jack Freed at Cornell University. [Read more| Read the article in: Nature]

January 2015

John Blenis, Olga Boudker, and Jue Chen Join the TPCB Faculty

TPCB recently welcomed three new faculty members to the program, bringing diverse research interests in chemical cell biology, small-molecule inhibitor discovery, and structure and function of membrane transporter proteins.

Prof. John Blenis of Weill Cornell is a leader in the field of signal transduction and has helped to define major signaling pathways in cancer, including those involving Ras, PI3K, and mTOR. These studies have identified promising new therapeutic targets and the lab is now pursuing small-molecule screens to develop drug combinations that selectively kill cancer cells. Prior to joining Weill Cornell and TPCB, Prof. Blenis was on the faculty of Harvard Medical School for 25 years. [Read more]

Prof. Olga Boudker of Weill Cornell has carried out seminal studies of the structure and function of glutamate transporters, which are responsible for the uptake of the neurotransmitter glutamate to enable proper synaptic function. These transporters use gradients of sodium and potassium ions to provide the necessary energy for glutamate transport. The lab uses X-ray crystallography, biochemistry, and biophysics to understand this coupled transport system. Prof. Boudker has been a member of the Weill Cornell faculty since 2005. [Read more]

Prof. Jue Chen of Rockefeller is a structural biologist who is widely recognized for her studies of ABC transporters, which couple membrane transport of various molecules with ATP hydrolysis. Using X-ray crystallography, she has determined how this chemical energy is converted into mechanical work through a series of conformational changes in the transporter. Prof. Chen began her career at Purdue University in 2002 and was recruited to Rockefeller in 2014. She has also been an HHMI Investigator since 2008. [Read more]

November 2014

David Allis Wins 2015 Breakthrough Prize for Discovery of Histone Modifications

TPCB faculty member Prof. C. David Allis of Rockefeller has been awarded one of six 2015 Breakthrough Prizes in Life Sciences for his seminal research in epigenetics. Prof. Allis was recognized for his discovery of covalent chemical modifications of histone proteins that package DNA, and the critical roles of these modifications in regulating gene expression. This fundamentally new mechanism for gene regulation has major implications in a variety of human diseases including cancer and opens the door to the development of new therapeutic approaches. Prof. Allis joins Prof. Lewis Cantley of Weill Cornell as the second TPCB faculty member to be honored with this award. In total, six faculty on the Tri-Institutional campuses have received Breakthrough Prizes, which were established in 2013 by technology entrepreneurs including Google’s Sergey Brin, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, and Alibaba’s Jack Ma and are accompanied by cash awards of $3 million. [Read more]

Lewis Cantley Elected to Institute of Medicine

TPCB faculty member Prof. Lewis Cantley at Weill Cornell has been elected to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies. Membership in the IOM is one of the highest honors bestowed in the fields of health and medicine. Prof. Cantley is a preeminent chemical biologist and cancer researcher who discovered the phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K) signaling pathway. PI3K is the most commonly mutated gene across various cancers and this discovery has led to revolutionary treatments for cancer, diabetes, and autoimmune diseases. His research focuses on understanding the biochemical pathways by which oncogenes mediate changes in cell metabolism, cell growth, and cell transformation. Prof. Cantley joined Weill Cornell and the TPCB faculty in 2012 from Harvard Medical School and is also Director of the Meyer Cancer Center. [Read more]

October 2014

Marraffini Lab Develops Programmable Antibiotics to Target Bad Bugs

Most antibiotics used clinically are blunt instruments, which kill not only pathogenic bacteria but also commensal bacteria, often with serious side effects. To address this problem, TPCB faculty member Prof. Luciano Marraffini and his lab at Rockefeller have now developed a smarter, ‘programmable’ antibiotic strategy that selectively targets pathogenic bacteria, particularly those carrying genes for antibiotic resistance. In the approach, they engineer the CRISPR-Cas9 system, which bacteria use to defend themselves against viruses, to target specific DNA sequences for cleavage. By targeting bacterial gene sequences known to encode for antibiotic resistance, this approach could address the most life-threatening infections while simultaneously sparing commensal bacteria, thereby avoiding secondary infections such as those caused by Clostridum difficile. The work demonstrated that the antibiotic system could be used to kill resistant Staphylococcus aureus in a mouse skin infection model and was carried out in collaboration with the lab of Rockefeller colleague, Prof. Vincent Fischetti. [Read more | Read the article in: Nat. Biotechnol.]

August 2014

TPCB Co-Sponsors New York Academy of Sciences Symposium on Click Chemistry

TPCB was proud to co-sponsor the New York Academy of Sciences event, Click Chemistry in Biology and Medicine Symposium: New Developments and Strategies. The symposium was held on September 15, 2014 and explored recent developments in click chemistry, including the discovery of new click reactions. The program included keynote talks by 2001 Nobel Laureate Prof. K. Barry Sharpless and Prof. James Paulson, both of The Scripps Research Institute. Other speakers included Prof. Yimon Aye (Cornell University), Prof. David A. Spiegel (Yale University) and Prof. Peng Wu (Albert Einstein College of Medicine). [Read more]

July 2014

TPCB Symposium Showcases Forefront Research in Chemical Biology

TPCB hosted its 10th Annual Chemical Biology Symposium on July 18, 2014 at The Rockefeller University with over 100 chemical biology researchers in attendance. The program featured four distinguished keynote speakers: Prof. Raymond Deshaies from the California Institute of Technology, Prof. Kai Johnsson from École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Prof. Dorothee Kern from Brandeis University, and TPCB faculty member Prof. Sebastian Klinge from Rockefeller University. TPCB students Ian Bothwell (Luo Lab, Sloan Kettering), Rashad Karimov (Gin/Tan Lab, Sloan Kettering), and Roman Subbotin (Chait Lab, Rockefeller) also presented seminars on their graduate research. Numerous scientists from the broader Tri-Institutional chemical biology community also shared their work at a poster session, with Best Poster Awards going to Gil Blum (Luo Lab, Sloan Kettering), David Iaea (Maxfield Lab, Weill Cornell), Alexis Jaramillo (Nimigean Lab, Weill Cornell), and Dr. Nathan Westcott (Hang Lab, Rockefeller).

June 2014

Kapoor Lab Develops New Approach to Identify Biological Targets of Small Molecules

Identifying the biological targets of bioactive small molecules is a major challenge in chemical biology and a classical bottleneck in the field. TPCB Faculty Member Prof. Tarun Kapoor and his lab at Rockefeller University have now developed a powerful new approach that enables rapid identification and validation of these targets, using state-of-the-art genome sequencing and editing technologies. The work was carried out through a multidisciplinary collaboration with computational biologist Prof. Olivier Elemento at Weill Cornell Medical College. Their approach involves initial identification of cells that are resistant to the activity of the small molecule, followed by high-throughput transcriptome sequencing to identify the genetic mutations in the cells that confer this resistance. These candidate targets are then validated by using a genome editing technology called the CRISPR-Cas9 system to insert the specific mutated gene into a new cell line and confirm resistance to the small molecule. The method can be used to identify both direct physiological targets of the molecules as well as epigenetic and other indirect resistance mechanisms. The new technology was demonstrated using two anticancer drugs and is called ‘DrugTargetSeqR’. [Read the article in: Nat. Chem. Biol.]

Pavletich and Patel Elected Fellows of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences

TPCB faculty members Prof. Nikola Pavletich and Prof. Dinshaw Patel at Memorial Sloan Kettering have been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Prof. Pavletich’s research group is interested in the structural biology of pathways that are altered in cancer, with particular emphasis on pathways that control the growth and proliferation of the cell. Prof. Patel’s lab applies crystallographic and solution NMR techniques to investigate macromolecular-mediated recognition, regulation, and catalysis. They join two other TPCB faculty members as Fellows, Prof. Samuel Danishefsky (1984) and Prof. C. David Allis (2001). [Read more]

NYAS Chemical Biology Symposium Features Local Students and Postdocs

TPCB partnered with the New York Academy of Sciences to present the annual year-end NYAS Chemical Biology Symposium on June 3, 2014. The meeting is a highlight of the NYAS Chemical Biology Discussion Group series, which aims to enhance interactions among local-area laboratories working in chemical biology and to feature forefront research in chemical biology to the wider community. The series traditionally covers a range of current topics in chemical biology, including chemical probe development, organic synthesis, biosynthesis, protein engineering, nanotechnology, and drug discovery. This year’s symposium featured keynote speaker Prof. Brent Stockwell of Columbia University, as well as student talks and posters from participating tri-state area institutions, including several TPCB labs. [Read more]

May 2014

TPCB Congratulates Our 2014 Graduates

Congratulations to the TPCB’s 2014 graduates Anupam Chakravarty (Shuman Lab, Sloan Kettering), Ushati Das Chakravarty (Shuman Lab, Sloan Kettering), Rashad Karimov (Gin/Tan Lab, Sloan Kettering), and Vidhya Rangaraju (Ryan Lab, Weill Cornell)! The graduates received their degrees at the Weill Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences graduation ceremony on May 29, 2014 at Carnegie Hall. Students in Sloan Kettering labs were also recognized at the Sloan Kettering Institute Commencement Ceremony on May 14, 2014.

• Anupam Chakravarty, PhD – “Mechanisms of RNA Damage and Repair”, Postdoctoral Fellow, Prof. Daniel Jarosz, Stanford School of Medicine

• Ushati Das Chakravarty, PhD – “End-healing Mechanisms in DNA and RNA Repair”, Postdoctoral Fellow, Prof. Harry Noller, University of California Santa Cruz

• Rashad Karimov, PhD – “Synthetic Studies on Immunoadjuvant Jujuboside A. Total Synthesis of 23-epi-Jujubogenin”, Postdoctoral Fellow, Prof. John F. Hartwig, University of California, Berkeley

• Vidhya Rangaraju, PhD – “Developing a Novel Quantitative ATP Reporter and Dissecting the Role of ATP in Synaptic Function”, Postdoctoral Fellow, Prof. Erin Schuman, Max Planck Institute for Brain Research

Sebastian Klinge awarded Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship

TPCB faculty member Prof. Sebastian Klinge of Rockefeller University was one of 126 scholars nationwide selected to receive an Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship. The fellowship supports early-stage scientists pursuing original research. Prof. Klinge will receive $50,000 over two years to further his work on the structure and function of ribosomes, the cell’s protein factories. Three TPCB faculty have been awarded Sloan fellowships previously: Prof. Vanessa Ruta (2013), Prof. Derek Tan (2007), and Prof. Timothy Ryan (1999). [Read more]

April 2014

Adam Trotta Awarded NSF Graduate Fellowship

Congratulations to TPCB student Adam Trotta, who has been awarded a National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship to support his research on synthesis of antibacterial alkaloid natural products with Prof. Samuel Danishefsky at Sloan Kettering! Adam has a Bachelor’s degree in Chemistry from Tufts University and is interested in studying efficient total synthesis of bioactive natural products. He is one of a select group of 2,000 students to receive this honor out of 14,000 applicants nationwide. [Read more]

March 2014

Tiny Solutions for Big Problems: A Visit to the Lab of Daniel Heller

Chemist and engineer Prof. Daniel Heller, a TPCB faculty member, makes nanoscale materials that are specially designed to enable biological research and solve clinical problems. Using their diverse sets of expertise, members of his lab at Memorial Sloan Kettering work closely together to speed developments in cancer research, diagnosis, and treatment. Team members in the Heller lab are developing carbon nanotube­–based sensors to detect early-stage cancers, as well as nanoparticles to target drugs that treat metastatic tumors. [Read more | View video]

February 2014

Jaffrey Lab Uncovers Mechanism Involved in Fragile X Syndrome

TPCB faculty member Prof. Samie Jaffrey and his lab at Weill Cornell have uncovered the mechanism by which RNA can direct gene silencing involved in fragile X syndrome, a genetic condition that causes intellectual disability and autism. In their paper in Science, they report that an untranslated region of the messenger RNA forms an RNA•DNA duplex with its complementary DNA strand of the fragile X syndrome gene, shutting down production of a protein needed for communication between brain cells. The researchers also discovered that a small molecule that binds this untranslated region of the mRNA can block this gene silencing mechanism in human embryonic stem cells that carry the allele for fragile X syndrome. This suggests that similar therapeutic strategies may be possible for 20 other diseases caused by related gene silencing mechanisms, ranging from mental retardation to multisystem failure. [Read more | Read the article in: Science]

Tim Ryan and Vidhya Rangaraju Discover New Paradigm for ATP Production in Neurons

TPCB student Vidhya Rangaraju and TPCB faculty member Prof. Timothy Ryan at Weill Cornell have used a novel molecular imaging technology to challenge the conventional dogma on energy production in neurons. Scientists have long thought that neurons produce a steady stream of ATP to enable neurotransmission. However, in their latest paper in Cell, the Ryan lab used a quantitative luciferase reporter to monitor presynaptic ATP levels and discovered that ATP is produced on-demand, rather than continuously. This suggests that brain disorders may be caused by mutations or malfunctions in this on-demand circuitry. Further research will be required to see if such ATP deficits occur in diseased states but this research suggests that new therapeutic approaches might be considered to treat neurodegenerative disorders. [Read more | Read the article in: Cell]

January 2014

Davis Allis Receives 2014 Japan Prize in Life Sciences

TPCB faculty member Prof. C. David Allis of Rockefeller University has been awarded the 2014 Japan Prize in Life Sciences! This prestigious international award is presented to individuals whose original and outstanding achievements are scientifically impressive, and have also served to promote peace and prosperity for all mankind. Prof. Allis is a pioneer in the field of epigenetics and is being recognized for his discovery of the chemical modifications on DNA-packaging histone proteins that serve as fundamental regulators of gene expression. Each Japan Prize laureate receives a cash prize of 50 million yen. Congratulations to Prof. Allis and his laboratory! [Read more at: Rockefeller | Japan Prize Foundation]

Danishefsky Lab Completes Total Synthesis of the Glycoprotein Erythropoietin

TPCB faculty member Prof. Samuel Danishefsky of Sloan–Kettering and his team have reported a landmark achievement in Science, bridging the gap between biologics and small-molecule drugs by accomplishing the total chemical synthesis of the glycoprotein erythropoietin (EPO) in a single, pure form. EPO is the hormone that controls the production of red blood cells by a process called erythropoiesis. The ability to generate pure EPO will now enable scientists to make numerous forms of the molecule and allow them to study whether certain variants are better than others at inducing the production of red blood cells, as well as participating in other biological processes. The achievement required major advances in the logic of building oligosaccharides and new strategies for assembling polypetides and proteins in a chemical laboratory rather than in a biological cell. The work had been highlighted in both Science and Nature. [Read the article in: Science | Read highlights in: Science | Nature]

December 2013

Vanessa Ruta Receives 2013 NIH Directors’ New Innovator Award

TPCB faculty member Prof. Vanessa Ruta of Rockefeller University was one of 41 investigators nationwide selected to receive an NIH Directors’ New Innovator Award. The grant supports early-stage investigators pursuing bold and highly innovative research projects. Dr. Ruta is working on a novel neural tracing technique to map the associative olfactory circuits in the fly brain and to discern how odor associations are encoded by synaptic connections and neural ensembles. Her goal is to use optical imaging, labeling, and electrophysiology to directly visualize how individual synaptic connections between neurons are modified as a consequence of learning and experience. The grant provides $2.45 million in funding over a five-year period. Congratulations to Prof. Ruta and her laboratory! [Read more]

Michael Foley to Lead Tri-Institutional Therapeutics Discovery Institute

Preeminent chemist and entrepreneur, Michael A. Foley, PhD, has been named Director of the new Tri-Institutional Therapeutics Discovery Institute. This innovative partnership of Weill Cornell, Rockefeller, Sloan-Kettering, and Takeda Pharmaceutical Company is aimed at advancing early-stage academic drug discovery and will be housed in the top floor of the new Belfer Research Building at Weill Cornell. Dr. Foley was most recently the Director of the Chemical Biology Platform at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. He is the scientific co-founder of four biotechnology companies, a veteran of the pharmaceutical industry, and has placed 12 drugs into clinical development. [Tri-I TDI | Read more at: Weill Cornell | Rockefeller | Sloan-Kettering]

Aconitine Alkaloid Natural Product Total Synthesis Highlighted

Congratulations to TPCB alumnus Dr. Yuan Shi, whose paper in the Journal of the American Chemical Society describing the first total synthesis of the norditerpenoid alkaloid natural product neofinaconitine has been highlighted in Angewandte Chemie as well as in Synfacts. The work was carried out with Dr. Jeremy Wilmot and Dr. Lars Nordstrøm in the laboratory of the late Prof. David Y. Gin, a TPCB faculty member. [Read the article in: J. Am. Chem. Soc. | Read highlights in: Angew. Chem. Intl. Ed. | Synfacts | Org. Chem. Highlights]

Howard Hang and Minkui Luo Speak at Bioorthogonal Chemistry Symposium

TPCB faculty members Prof. Howard Hang and Prof. Minkui Luo, along with Prof. Joe Fox (University of Delaware) presented their research at the New York Academy of Sciences symposium on “Bioorthogonal Chemistry in Biology and Medicine” on December 11, 2013. The symposium featured a stimulating afternoon of lectures and posters with numerous labs from the NYC area in attendance. [Read more]

November 2013

Joan Massagué Named Director of Sloan-Kettering Institute

Renowned cancer biologist Joan Massagué, PhD has been named Director of the Sloan-Kettering Institute, succeeding Dr. Thomas J. Kelly. With a research career spanning more than 30 years, Dr. Massagué has been lauded for the originality and importance of his work elucidating the mechanism of action for transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-β) signaling. He joined MSKCC in 1989 as Chair of the Cell Biology Program and was named the inaugural Chair of the Cancer Biology & Genetics Program in 2003. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Medicine, and an Investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. [Read more]

Vidhya Rangaraju Completes Her PhD Thesis on a Novel Optical ATP Reporter

Congratulations to TPCB student, Vidhya Rangaraju, who successfully defended her thesis “Developing a Novel Quantitative ATP Reporter and Dissecting the Role of ATP in Synaptic Function” on November 14, 2013! Vidhya carried out her research in the lab of TPCB faculty member Prof. Timothy Ryan at Weill Cornell, where she developed a novel, genetically-encoded, optical ATP reporter for quantitative dynamic measurements of presynaptic ATP concentrations. Using this reporter, she found that electrical activity causes significant demands on presynaptic ATP levels that are met by activity-driven ATP synthesis. The synaptic vesicle cycle serves as the primary source of this ATP demand, resulting in severe impairment of synapse function when local ATP synthesis is compromised (Rangaraju, V.; Calloway, N.; Ryan, T. A. “Activity-driven local ATP synthesis is required for synaptic function.” Cell 2013, in press). She will now be going onto a postdoctoral fellowship with Prof. Erin Schuman, Director of the Max Planck Institute for Brain Research in Frankfurt, Germany. Herzlichen Glückwunsch, Vidhya!

October 2013

Tri-Institutional Therapeutics Discovery Institute to Accelerate Drug Development

Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, The Rockefeller University and Weill Cornell Medical College have formed the pioneering Tri-Institutional Therapeutics Discovery Institute (Tri-I TDI) in partnership with Takeda Pharmaceutical Company. This new, groundbreaking institute is designed to expedite the translation of early-stage drug discoveries into innovative treatments and therapies for patients.  The Tri-I TDI has been founded thanks to a generous $15 million gift by Lewis and Ali Sanders and a $5 million gift from Howard and Abby Milstein.  [Read more | View video]

September 2013

TPCB Symposium Features Leading Chemical Biologists

TPCB hosted its 9th Annual Symposium on September 30, 2013 at Sloan-Kettering. The Symposium program featured four distinguished keynote speakers: Prof. Andrew Phillips (Yale University), Prof. Hening Lin (Cornell University), Prof. Chuan He (University of Chicago) and TPCB faculty member Prof. Samie Jaffrey (Weill Cornell Medical College). Current TPCB students Ushati Das and Qinsi Zheng also presented seminars on their research and a lunchtime poster session included numerous participants from the broader Tri-Institutional chemical biology community.

Ushati Das Awarded Hutchinson Fellowship

Congratulations to TPCB student Ushati Das, who received the Dorris J. Hutchison Graduate Fellowship to support her research on the structures and mechanisms of RNA repair enzymes with Prof. Stewart Shuman at Sloan-Kettering!  [Read more]

Gary Koretzky Named Dean of Weill Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences

One of the world’s leading immunologists, Gary Koretzky, MD, PhD, has been named Dean of the Weill Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences and Senior Associate Dean for Research at Weill Cornell Medical College, effective October 1, 2013. He succeeds Dr. David Hajjar and joins Dean Sidney Strickland of Rockefeller University and Dr. Thomas Kelly of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center on the Executive Committee of TPCB. Dr. Koretzky has been the Francis C. Wood Professor of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and studies the biochemistry of T lymphocyte development. He is a member of the Institute of Medicine and a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. [Read more]

July 2013

TPCB Welcomes Incoming Class of 2013

TPCB welcomed six new students to the program: Shi Chen (Tsinghua University), Malik Chaker-Margot (University of Montreal), Zachary Hann (University of California, San Diego), Cristina Santarossa (Smith College), Chaya Stern (Brooklyn College), and John Zinder (Cornell University and University of Colorado).  These students represent diverse research interests in chemical biology and have started their first laboratory rotations. [Read more]

May 2013

Christopher Lima Selected as HHMI Investigator

TPCB faculty member Prof. Christopher D. Lima of Sloan-Kettering’s Structural Biology Program has been selected as a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator. He is one of 27 selected in the recent competition from more than 1,200 applicants. Dr. Lima’s laboratory uses structural, biochemical, and functional analyses of macromolecules to understand RNA metabolism and its role in cell growth and disease. Dr. Lima joins TPCB’s three other HHMI investigators: Jonathan Goldberg, Roderick MacKinnon, and Nikola Pavletich, along with HHMI Early Career Scientist Sean Brady.  [Read more]