Dr. David Baker, University of Washington (UW) professor of biochemistry and an investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Research Institute, has been selected to receive the 2008 Raymond & Beverly Sackler International Prize in Biophysics, along with Dr. Martin Gruebele of the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and Dr. Jonathan Weissman of the University of California, San Francisco.
The field for this year's prize was the physics of structure formation and self-assembly of proteins and nucleic acids. The award will be presented to the three scientists Dec. 15 at Israel's Tel Aviv University.
The prize was established by arts and sciences philanthropists Dr. Raymond R. Sackler and his wife, Beverly Sackler. Raymond Sackler is a psychiatrist and co-founder of a multinational pharmaceutical company.
Baker is being honored for his seminal contributions to computer-based studies of the manner and the speed in which chains of amino acids fold into protein molecules. Anyone who has tried to put together a cardboard box knows the importance of proper folding to get a useful product. The same is true when the body manufactures proteins.
Creating computer models of protein-folding is essential for figuring out how genetic information directs protein formation, how proteins work, and how misfolded, misshapen, and malfunctioning proteins might underlie serious degenerative diseases.
Baker has developed computer programs to predict protein structures from amino acid sequences in DNA. His program, Rosetta, is among the most accurate. He has combined data from nuclear magnetic resonance imaging and X-ray defraction imaging with his computer modeling to more quickly delineate protein molecule structures. He also researches the ways that molecular configurations of proteins determine their functions in biochemical reactions.
In addition, Baker and his team have developed new protein folds and have designed and bu
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University of Washington