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Academy of Science of St. Louis honors WUSM researchers

Four researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis are being honored as outstanding scientists by the Academy of Science of St. Louis.

John C. Morris, MD, the Harvey A. and Dorismae Hacker Friedman Professor of Neurology, will receive the Academy of Science’s Peter H. Raven Lifetime Achievement Award; Karen Seibert, PhD, a professor of genetics and of pathology and immunology, will be honored with the Science Leadership Award for an individual; Samuel Klein, MD, the Danforth Professor of Medicine and Nutritional Science, will be recognized with the Fellows Award; and Katherine Henzler-Wildman, PhD, assistant professor of biochemistry and molecular biophysics, will receive the Innovation Award.

The awards, which will be given at a dinner in April, represent recognition by St. Louis’ scientific community, the Academy’s Board of Trustees and members of the Academy of Science of St. Louis.

Morris

Morris, who also is a professor of pathology and immunology, and occupational therapy and physical therapy, is director and principal investigator of the Charles F. and Joanne Knight Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center at the School of Medicine. In more than 30 years at Washington University, he has pushed back the threshold for accurate detection and diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease and now focuses his attention on predicting the disease before patients begin experiencing dementia.

Among his accomplishments, Morris’ research team refined the Clinical Dementia Rating (CDR) system, which was first developed by the founding director of the ADRC. The CDR is now the standard clinical measure for the staging of dementia. Morris’ studies have helped clinicians better distinguish between the normal effects of aging on memory and the earliest clinical symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. His team now is changing the treatment paradigm by launching in cognitively normal people the first-ever trial with drugs targeting the initial Alzheimer disease mechanisms to ideally delay or even prevent the onset of Alzheimer symptoms.

Seibert

Seibert is recognized as one of the principal investigators in identifying the arthritis and pain drug Celebrex. In the 1980s, she and her colleagues at Washington University were among the first to describe a novel enzyme involved in pain and inflammation: COX-2. After being named vice president of research and development at Pfizer in 2003, she honed her leadership expertise in pharmaceutical management, organizational design, and team and talent development while leading a team of more than 500 scientists.

As Pfizer moved its presence from St. Louis in 2010, she was credited with helping facilitate the retention of regional employees in the life sciences at start-ups, universities and corporations. That same year, she returned to Washington University, where she directs the university’s Genomics and Pathology Services, a large, multi-disciplinary team of scientists who discover and develop clinical genomic tests for use in medical practice and clinical research.

Klein

Klein also is director of the Division of Geriatrics and Nutritional Science and the Center for Applied Research Studies, as well as Washington University’s Center for Human Nutrition. He is recognized internationally as a leader in the study of obesity and metabolic function. Klein’s major research interest involves learning how obesity contributes to metabolic diseases, such as diabetes and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.

He leads a group of investigators who are applying a systems biology approach to understanding the cellular and inter-organ physiology responsible for the metabolic abnormalities associated with obesity in people. His group also is studying the efficacy of dietary, pharmacological and surgical therapies to treat obesity and improve metabolic health.

Henzler-Wildman

Henzler-Wildman is recognized for her work in the basic science investigation of membrane protein dynamics. She studies the dynamics of proteins in the cell membrane — identifying their structure and function and how they move and change shape as they do their cellular work. She focuses in particular on transport proteins, which are responsible for moving molecules across cell membranes.

Combining new approaches with traditional methods, Henzler-Wildman recently uncovered crucial details of how the protein moves. She is studying the orientation of the small multidrug resistance transporter EmrE in the membrane, and how it rearranges itself to pump drugs and other small molecules out of bacteria. She is interested in what gives bacteria multidrug resistance, allowing them to become immune to a broad range of antibiotic drugs — and how to disrupt that ability to resist such drugs.


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Elizabethe Holland Durando
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elizabethe.durando@wustl.edu