Jan-Feb 2014 ASCB Newsletter - page 14-15

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ASCB
NEWSLETTER JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2014
JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2014
ASCB
NEWSLETTER
View Videos and TV Spots from the 2013 Annual Meeting
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ASCB Honors Jeremy Berg for Advocacy Work
Jeremy Berg became director of the National Institute
of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) just in time to
see the end of the doubling of the National Institutes
of Health (NIH) budget and the beginning of a steady
decline in funding for the agency. However, as 2013
ASCB President Don Cleveland said in his remarks at
the Public Service Award ceremony, we could not have
had a better person at the helm of the institute that
provides a majority of our community’s funding during
the subsequent eight years of decline.
In selecting Berg for the award, the ASCB Public
Policy Committee recognized “his work as a strong and
vocal advocate of basic research” and honored him “for
his outspoken support of the basic research community.”
Unlike previous recipients of the Public Service
Award, Berg included both science and policy in his
remarks. Along with talking about the work he did at
NIGMS, he also discussed his research before and after
leading NIGMS. Berg was among the first to design zinc-fingers to target specific DNA sequences, a strategy that has since been
built upon to generate zinc-finger nuclease genome editing technology. His more recent work at the University of Pittsburgh has
focused on understanding the structural basis for targeting to peroxisomes, organelles responsible for the breakdown of long-
chain fatty acids.
During his presentation, Berg told a story that shows what it means to be an advocate. Each fall during his tenure as NIGMS
director, Berg and his staff would put their heads together to speculate about who might be selected by the Nobel committees
that year. Each year, they would gather information about the how NIGMS had been involved in the careers of the potential
winners and share that information with reporters so they would be aware of the important role NIH and NIGMS played in the
careers of the potential Nobel laureates.
In 2013, Berg knew that, with the government shut down, no one at the NIH would be able to get the NIH’s story out to
reporters. So even though he was no longer at the NIH, Berg took it upon himself to gather information about NIH involvement
in the careers of potential laureates and have it ready for any reporter who came calling.
n
—Kevin Wilson
Jeremy Berg (left) received the ASCB Public Service Award from 2013 ASCB
President Don Cleveland.
The Modest Eukaryote Steps Out
in John Pringle’s E.B. Wilson Lecture
In nominating John Pringle for the E.B. Wilson
Medal, the ASCB’s highest scientific honor, Daniel
Lew, a former Pringle postdoc now at the Duke
University Medical Center, described his one-time PI
as the “father” of yeast cell biology. David Drubin,
who introduced Pringle’s E.B. Wilson lecture at
the ASCB Annual Meeting in New Orleans, took
it further. “Today it’s hard to appreciate that back
in the ‘70s and ‘80s, a lot of cell biologists didn’t
accept yeast as a eukaryotic cell,” explained Drubin,
a leading yeast cell biologist at the University of
California, Berkeley. “In fact, the common view at
the time was that yeast was simply a very ambitious
prokaryote.” Pringle’s 40 years of pioneering work on
cell polarity, cell division, and the septin cytoskeleton
made yeast a premiere organism for studies of cell
biology, said Drubin, adding, “Now thanks to John,
we know that yeast are not ambitious prokaryotes but very modest eukaryotes.”
Modest or no, the star of Pringle’s Wilson lecture was Saccharomyces cerevisiae. (Pringle’s complete 2013 E.B. Wilson lecture
is at:
. Pringle paid tribute to family, lab members, colleagues, mentors,
and the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, but it was the humble baker’s yeast with its genetic possibilities and deep
mysteries that attracted Pringle to the University of Washington in 1970 as Leland Hartwell’s first postdoc. Working with baker’s
yeast, the Hartwell lab identified the family of cell division cycle (cdc) genes that led to Hartwell’s 2001 Nobel Prize in Physiology
or Medicine. Yeast took Pringle on his academic journey with stops at the University of Michigan, the University of North
Carolina, Chapel Hill, and finally Stanford. Along the way, the Pringle lab used yeast to establish many of the principles of cell
polarity and to identify the role of cdc42, the RhoGTPase in yeast that shapes the cytoskeleton. His lab also developed fluorescent
microscopy in yeast and devised many of the basic molecular and genetic tools that have made Saccharomyces a workhorse of cell
research.
“It’s been quite a journey,” Pringle told his ASCB audience, “that involved a lot of people, but it was a lot of fun.” Every step,
Pringle stressed, was “curiosity-driven” basic research. “The fact that it has general and medical relevance [today] shouldn’t be
surprising to anyone in this room even if curiosity-driven research is not such a hot commodity these days for funding by the
government or foundations.”
n
—John Fleischman
ASCB Award Essays
Read essays by John Pringle and other 2013 ASCB award recipients in the November 1, 2013, issue of
Molecular Biology of the Cell
(
.
Look for More 2013 Annual Meeting Coverage in the March
Issue of the Newsletter
Council Meeting
The ASCB Council met in New Orleans for important discussions about the future of the Society. For a detailed discussion,
look for the Executive Director Stefano Bertuzzi’s column in the March issue.
DORA Panel Discussion
Molecular Biology of the Cell
Editor-in-Chief David Drubin led a panel discussion on the San Francisco Declaration on Research
Assessment (DORA). Learn about progress and possible future directions for this important initiative.
Reports by British and French Young Cell Biologists
E.B. Wilson Awardee John Pringle
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