Navigation Links
UT Southwestern faculty member receives Norman Hackerman Award

DALLAS March 27, 2014 Dr. Benjamin P. Tu, associate professor of biochemistry at UT Southwestern Medical Center, was honored today with the 2014 Norman Hackerman Award in Chemical Research. Dr. Tu was recognized for innovative studies of once-unappreciated molecules that may someday improve treatments for cancer or conditions associated with aging.

The award is given by the Houston-based Welch Foundation, one of the nation's oldest and largest sources of private funding for basic research in chemistry. The Welch Foundation presents the $100,000 award annually to honor early career scientists at Texas institutions who are expanding the frontiers of chemistry. Dr. Tu, 36, is the fifth UT Southwestern researcher since 2002 to receive the award, which is named after Dr. Norman Hackerman, an internationally known chemist and former president of both the University of Texas at Austin and Rice University.

Dr. Tu's work indicates that metabolites small molecules produced when the body processes nutrients may be the drivers of key cellular processes rather than mere bystanders, as conventional wisdom had held. In research that may lead to new treatments for human disease, Dr. Tu identified a unique nutritional pathway in mammalian cells that is unnecessary for healthy cells but crucial to support the uncontrolled growth of cancer cells. He then discovered a way to block that pathway.

"Dr. Tu is an outstanding investigator whose discoveries are at the nexus of biology and chemistry," said Dr. Daniel K. Podolsky, President of UT Southwestern Medical Center. "Dr. Tu's work is advancing our understanding of what could be a very critical connection between metabolism and the fundamental cellular processes of cell growth, division, and autophagy, the 'housecleaning' process through which cells destroy damaged proteins and organelles."

"I am very honored to receive this award and wish to thank all my mentors, colleagues, and trainees who believed in me along the way," Dr. Tu said. "It is wonderful that the Welch Foundation so generously supports basic chemical research in Texas. This support will help us better understand processes that are fundamental to conditions such as cancer and aging. We hope to continue discovering unforeseen roles for small molecule metabolites in biology, improving our understanding of diseases affected by cellular metabolism."

Dr. Tu began his research in yeast and recently expanded to mammalian cells to understand how metabolism affects fundamental cellular processes when nutrients are scarce. His strategy runs counter to the usual approach.

"Scientists tend to culture cells under nutrient-rich conditions because we want them to grow," said Dr. Tu. "In reality, cells in the wild or growing in a tumor often face unfavorable nutritional states. Those are the times you can really see the impact of metabolites. They kick off cellular strategies for survival, such as delaying cell division until more nutrient-favorable times."

The son of two scientists, Dr. Tu enjoyed numbers as a child. An undergraduate course in the organic chemistry of life and lab work at Harvard College convinced him to pursue a career in biochemistry. He arrived at UT Southwestern as a postdoctoral researcher in the laboratory of Dr. Steven McKnight, chairman of biochemistry, in 2004 and joined the UT Southwestern faculty in 2007.

"Ben graduated from Harvard with honors, and then did fantastic doctoral work in biochemistry and biophysics at the University of California, San Francisco," Dr. McKnight said. "He has proven to be as good as it gets as an experimental scientist."

Dr. Tu's honors include the Burroughs Wellcome Fund Career Award in Biomedical Sciences, a Sara and Frank McKnight Foundation Fellowship (named to honor Dr. McKnight's parents), an AAAS/Science/GE Healthcare Young Scientist Regional Award, and a Packard Fellowship for Science and Engineering.

UT Southwestern's other Hackerman Award winners are Dr. Kim Orth, professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, in 2010; Dr. Patrick Harran, former professor of biochemistry, in 2007; Dr. Zhijian "James" Chen, professor of molecular biology, in 2005; and Dr. Xiaodong Wang, former professor of biochemistry, in 2003.


Contact: Deborah Wormser
UT Southwestern Medical Center

Related biology news :

1. UT Southwestern ob/gyn researchers studying genetic factors in premature births
2. Thirty-nine new species of endemic cockroach discovered in the southwestern US and Mexico
3. UT Southwestern neuroscience researchers identify gene involved in response to cocaine
4. UT Southwestern scientist honored as rising star in Texas research
5. UT Southwestern researchers identify how body clock affects inflammation
6. UT Southwestern researchers identify novel mechanism that helps stomach bug cause illness
7. UT Southwestern scientists make mouse model of human cancer, demonstrate cure
8. Mesquite trees displacing Southwestern grasslands
9. Three UTSA College of Sciences faculty honored at AAAS Annual Meeting
10. Two NYU faculty win Sloan Foundation research fellowships
11. UMass Medical School faculty recognized as 1 of nations top young scientists
Post Your Comments:
Related Image:
UT Southwestern faculty member receives Norman Hackerman Award
(Date:11/11/2015)... Minn. , Nov. 11, 2015   MedNet Solutions ... entire spectrum of clinical research, is pleased to announce that ... in Clinical Trials (PCT) event, to be held November ... be able to view live demonstrations of iMedNet ... and learn how iMedNet has been able to ...
(Date:11/4/2015)... November 4, 2015 --> ... report published by Transparency Market Research "Home Security Solutions Market ... Forecast 2015 - 2022", the global home security solutions market is ... by 2022. The market is estimated to expand at ... 2015 to 2022. Rising security needs among customers at ...
(Date:10/29/2015)... Oct. 29, 2015  Rubicon Genomics, Inc., today ... distribution of its DNA library preparation products, including ... new ThruPLEX Plasma-seq kit. ThruPLEX Plasma-seq has been ... of NGS libraries for liquid biopsies--the analysis of ... prognostic applications in cancer and other conditions. Eurofins ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:11/24/2015)... ... November 24, 2015 , ... Copper ... unless it is bound to proteins, copper is also toxic to cells. With ... Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) will conduct a systematic study of copper in the ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... 24, 2015 --> ... report "Oligonucleotide Synthesis Market by Product & Services (Primer, ... Diagnostic, DNA, RNAi), End-User (Research, Pharmaceutical & Biotech, Diagnostic ... the market is expected to reach USD 1,918.6 Million ... a CAGR of 10.1% during the forecast period. ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... New York , November 24, 2015 ... to a recent market research report released by Transparency ... projected to expand at a CAGR of 17.5% during ... "Non-invasive Prenatal Testing Market - Global Industry Analysis, Size, ... estimates the global non-invasive prenatal testing market to reach ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... ... November 24, 2015 , ... In harsh ... Insertion points for in-line sensors can represent a weak spot where leaking process ... series of retractable sensor housings , which are designed to tolerate extreme process ...
Breaking Biology Technology: