April 22, 2005

Biochemistry group tabs Hamm as president-elect

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Heidi Hamm, Ph.D.

Biochemistry group tabs Hamm as president-elect

F. Peter Guengerich, Ph.D.

F. Peter Guengerich, Ph.D.

Heidi Hamm, Ph.D., Earl W. Sutherland Jr. Professor of Pharmacology and chair of the department, was named president-elect of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the society's annual meeting in San Diego earlier this month.

ASBMB is a nonprofit scientific and educational organization dedicated to the advancement of biochemistry and molecular biology. Hamm, who previously served as the organization's secretary (1995-1998), will serve as president-elect for one year, followed by a two-year term as president.

For more than 20 years, Hamm has focused her research efforts on understanding G-proteins, a class of cell membrane proteins that transfer signals across the cell membrane. G-proteins play a key role in numerous physiological processes, particularly in the brain where many neurotransmitters use G-protein-regulated cascades to send their messages to the inside of the cell. This makes G-proteins and receptors that interact with them targets of many pharmaceutical therapies.

Her research has uncovered many details about how G proteins work — how they turn on and off, and how they interact with receptor proteins and with the proteins that are next in the message chain. For her research accomplishments, Hamm has received numerous awards, including two Distinguished Investigator Awards from the National Alliance for Research in Schizophrenia and Depression, the Faculty of the Year award from the University of Illinois College of Medicine, a Glaxo Cardiovascular Discovery Award and the Fritz Lipmann Memorial Lectureship at the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.

Hamm earned her doctoral degree in Zoology at the University of Texas-Austin in 1980. Following her postdoctoral training at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, she held faculty appointments at the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Medicine and Northwestern University before coming to Vanderbilt in 2000 to serve as chair of Pharmacology.

Also at the meeting, F. Peter Guengerich, Ph.D., professor of Biochemistry and director of the Center for Molecular Toxicology, received the ASBMB’s William C. Rose Award.

The award, which consists of a plaque and an honorarium to present a lecture at the meeting, recognizes outstanding contributions to biochemical and molecular biological research and a demonstrated commitment to the training of young scientists.

In his lecture, Guengerich discussed his recent work on the functions of the cytochrome P450 enzymes, proteins that metabolize toxic compounds like drugs, steroids and carcinogens, making them easier to clear from the body.

A recipient of numerous awards, Guengerich was recently ranked as the third most-cited scientist in Pharmacology and Toxicology (1993-2003).