Biochemist Gierasch to Receive Cohn Award for Innovative Approach to Advances

AMHERST, Mass. – Lila M. Gierasch, Distinguished Professor in biochemistry and molecular biology as well as chemistry at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, has been selected to receive the 2014 Mildred Cohn Award in Biological Chemistry, awarded annually by the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB).
The award honors the pioneering scientific accomplishments and the spirit of Mildred Cohn, the first female president of ASBMB, at the time known as the American Society of Biological Chemists. It recognizes and honors scientists at all stages of their careers who have made substantial advances in understanding biological chemistry using innovative physical approaches.
The award includes $5,000 and travel expenses to the ASBMB annual meeting next spring in San Diego to present the Mildred Cohn Award lecture.
Gierasch’s research focus is protein folding in cells – that is, how amino acid sequence determines the three-dimensional structure of a protein.
“We are using both ‘top down’ approaches by developing methods to observe a folding chain in cells and to perturb the cellular environment through genetic manipulation or environmental influences, and ‘bottom up’ approaches, wherein we mimic the components of the cell and examine their influence on folding,” says Gierasch.
Gierasch’s lab is also studying what happens when proteins fail to fold successfully, in an effort to understand “misfolding-based” neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s and Parkinson’s.