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Stanford professor honored for contributions to computational biosciences

BETHESDA, Md., April 7, 2011 Stanford University professor Axel T. Brunger has been named the winner of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology's inaugural DeLano Award for Computational Biosciences. Brunger will present his award lecture, titled "Towards Structural Biology with Single Molecules" at 9:03 a.m. on Wednesday, April 13, at the Experimental Biology 2011 conference at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C.

The award was established to honor those who create accessible and innovative developments or applications of computer technology to enhance research in the life sciences at the molecular level. Nominees' contributions must promote (a) more productive use of computers to accelerate and facilitate research and (b) ready access of those programs for the scientific community.

"Axel was the principal designer of CNS, which for over a decade has been the standard refinement program used by the structural (biology) community," said James A.Wells of the University of California, San Francisco, one of Brunger's nominators. "He has clearly made enormous contributions to structural biology by defining, developing and automating crystallographic refinement methods."

Established this year, the computational award aims to honor the legacy of the late Warren L. DeLano, a scientist and entrepreneur who promoted open-source technology and believed in making his programs and source code freely available to users and enabling researchers to build on his developments. While a graduate student, DeLano created PyMOL, an open-source tool for visualizing the three-dimensional structures of proteins and other biological molecules.

Wells credits Brunger, who is also a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator, for being a great mentor to DeLano, who died unexpectedly in November 2009 at age 37.

"Working with Axel as an undergraduate at Yale University was Warren's inspiration for devoting his own life to computational biosciences. Warren joined my lab as a graduate student, where he combined both wet lab and computational methods to understand promiscuous protein-protein binding partners," Wells said. "But it was Axel's dedicated mentoring and science that launched him and, I feel, ultimately was responsible for Warren developing PyMOL."

John Kuriyan, chancellor's professor in the departments of molecular and cell biology and chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley, also supported Brunger's nomination for the award. He had this to say about his longtime associate: "Axel is the foremost computational biologist working at the interface between X-ray crystallography, computation and biology. In addition, he is an outstanding structural biologist working on problems in vesicle fusion in neurobiology. I can think of no person better suited for this inaugural award."

The DeLano Award for Computational Biosciences consists of a plaque, a $3,000 cash award and travel expenses to present a lecture at the ASBMB annual meeting.

Brunger will give his talk at 9:03 a.m. Wednesday in the convention center's Ballroom C.


Contact: Angela Hopp
American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

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