It was an all-or-nothing moment. Titia de Lange, a newly hired assistant professor at the Rockefeller University, had months of prep work and her entire grant's supply budget in hand as she waited to cross York Avenue, the busy north-south street on Manhattan's Upper East Side that separates Rockefeller from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, where a collaborator was waiting to sequence de Lange's protein distillate. "We walked with all the protein we had from 1,500 liters of HeLa cells," de Lange recalled. "If we had tripped it would have been a problem. "It was a potentially self-destructive experiment, but it worked."
A yogurt producer with concerns, a puzzling aspect of bacterial genomes, a discussion over coffee, and a new MIT faculty member so youthful that he was mistaken for a freshman—these are a few links in the chain of discovery that led to CRISPR, today's hottest genetic rewriting technology. It stands for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats, and CRISPRs are changing biological research by making it easier than ever to edit genomes, opening whole fields to new possibilities in experiments and likely providing new treatments for complex diseases.
The University of Chicago (UChicago) and the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) have made their first joint research award since MBL became a UChicago affiliate last year to a group headed by ASCB member Clare Waterman with three other ASCB members as co-investigators. The Frank R. Lillie Research Innovation Award will support cross-disciplinary research at MBL in Woods Hole, MA, into integrin activation and actin dynamics during cell migration. The $125,000 award honors both MBL's 125th anniversary and Frank Lillie, who was chair of Zoology at UChicago and the second director of MBL in the early 20th century.
March is Women's History Month and both the Royal Society in the United Kingdom and the Smithsonian Institution Archives (SI Archives) in the United States scheduled Wikipedia "edit-a-thon" sessions to strengthen the online encyclopedia's inadequate coverage of women in science history. The Royal Society's event was last week but for the Smithsonian's there's still time to sign up and learn how to become a Wiki editor or go along in person to the Women In Science session on Tuesday, March 18, at the SI Archives offices in Washington.
For those who think scientific discoveries pop up overnight, consider Tom Rapoport's tale of the holiday carp and how it led him to study the translocation channel through which proteins, such as insulin, are secreted. Rapoport's latest discovery starts with a fish 30 years ago and ends, or at least continues, this month with a publication in Nature of the first x-ray structure of an open protein translocation channel.
John Pringle has been going to different sorts of meetings this last decade. He is still a regular at the ASCB Annual Meeting and at smaller yeast biology gatherings. Indeed he was in New Orleans for the ASCB Annual Meeting in December to receive the E.B. Wilson Medal, the ASCB's highest scientific honor, for his pioneering work on cell polarization and cytokinesis. But Pringle also goes, when he can, to the International Coral Reef Symposium, the Society for Microbial Ecology, and the International Symbiosis Society. He still has a small yeast group in his lab although his other interests have represented the majority since 2007. He is becoming known at these marine biology and ecology meetings, but Pringle says that he wishes there were more cell biologists there. John Pringle aims to correct that.
Biologists are passionate about papers. Here we ask an ASCB member to pick two journal articles that were important, either personally or scientifically, and to answer—briefly and informally—three questions: Why did you pick this paper? What's it about? What does it mean to you?
Consider it a triumphant return appearance. Their roles and most of all their science had changed in the dozen years since Elaine Fuchs, then president of the ASCB, introduced her keynote speaker at the 2001 ASCB Annual Meeting, Craig Venter. That had been during Venter's first big moment in the world media spotlight as head of Celera, his private "shotgun" gene sequencing company that had just completed the first draft of the human genome in an uneasy alliance with the public consortium led by the National Institutes of Health. Already a leading investigator of stem cells, a term that was just coming into the public consciousness in 2001, Fuchs was about to move to the Rockefeller University in New York City.
Singling out his work on the Genome Consortium for Active Teaching (GCAT), an educational cooperative that buys microarray chips in bulk and distributes them to undergraduate labs, the Genetics Society of America (GSA) awarded ASCB member A. Malcolm Campbell of Davidson College, the Elizabeth W. Jones Award for Excellence in Education. The GSA award recognizes a "significant, sustained impact on genetics education at any level."
Elaine Fuchs grew up surrounded by scientists. Her father and aunt were scientists at Argonne National Laboratories, and later her older sister became a neuroscientist. So Fuchs has followed in the family footsteps. Today she is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator, a professor at the Rockefeller University, and a widely recognized pioneer in adult stem cell research. She is also a former ASCB President. As an ASCB stalwart and a stem cell pathfinder, Fuchs was drafted to serve on the ASCB Stem Cell Task Force last spring and helped write the preliminary report, which was presented for public comment last month.