October 16, 2009

Taylor awarded Vanderbilt Prize in Biomedical Science

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Susan Taylor, Ph.D.

Taylor awarded Vanderbilt Prize in Biomedical Science

Susan Taylor, Ph.D., whose research has advanced understanding of how proteins are regulated in the body, has been awarded the 2009 Vanderbilt Prize in Biomedical Science.

The prize, established by Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in 2006, honors women who have made significant advances in the biological and biomedical sciences and have contributed positively to the mentorship of other women in science.

The prize will be presented to Taylor, a professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry and of Pharmacology at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), on Feb. 18, 2010, when she is scheduled to give a Vanderbilt Discovery Lecture.

It includes a $25,000 award and a funded scholarship named for Taylor that will support a woman beginning her M.D./Ph.D. studies at Vanderbilt. Taylor also will serve as a mentor for the student.

“This is a very innovative national prize showing public evidence of the value Vanderbilt places on discovery research, mentoring and women scientists,” said Susan Wente, Ph.D., senior associate dean for Biomedical Sciences at VUMC.

In 1991, Taylor and her colleagues at UCSD solved the crystal structure of the first protein kinase — protein kinase A or PKA.

Protein kinases are enzymes that, by attaching phosphate groups to other proteins, can turn them “on” or “off” or otherwise affect their function.

PKA is found throughout the body, and helps regulate memory, development, cell growth and cell death. Defects in PKA are associated with immune disorders, heart disease and cancer.

The anti-cancer drugs Gleevec and Iressa work by blocking kinase action.
Taylor has continued to advance understanding of how these crucial molecules work.

A member of the National Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Medicine and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, she is also a past president of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and has served on boards of counselors for the National Institutes of Health.

For a list of previous winners and the 2010 nomination form, go to https://medschool.vanderbilt.edu/dean and click on “Vanderbilt Prize.”

The 2007 winner of the Vanderbilt Prize, Elizabeth Blackburn, Ph.D., was awarded a Nobel Prize on Oct. 5.