Renowned Texas Medical Research Nonprofit Honors Young UTSW Investigator

The Academy of Medicine, Engineering and Science of Texas has named a UT Southwestern pharmacology and biophysics professor as one of the state’s most promising newcomers.

Dr. Yuh Min Chook will be awarded the 2015 Edith and peter O’Donnell Award in Science during the group’s annual conference on Jan. 22 in Houston. The award is given each year and comes with a $25,000 gift as well as an invite to speak at the conference.

“We admire the vision that led to the establishment of the O’Donnell awards, which annually highlight some of the most promising investigators in Texas,” said Dr. Daniel K. Podolsky, President of UT Southwestern Medical Center, in a statement. “Dr. Chook’s efforts to understand the underlying basis of an uncommon disorder have led to profound new insights into a fundamental mechanism of cellular transport of broad biologic importance.

Her research has prompted nearly two dozen clinical studies of therapeutics that could be used to treat leukemia, neuroblastoma, and melanoma. She is responsible for discovering the second class of import signals, 25 years after the first was discovered.

According to the university, importer and exporter molecules carry hundreds of different proteins to and from the nucleus every day. Specific nuclear transport receptors carry different sets of proteins and recognize specific signals on the proteins. So, when she started her research only one type of signal had been found. She discovered the second.

“The one she identified became recognized as central to the development of an uncommon, inherited form of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), in which the Fused in Sarcoma protein cargo cannot properly enter the nucleus and aggregates in the cell’s cytoplasm surrounding the nucleus,” the school says.

The Academy of Medicine, Engineering and Science of Texas is a nonprofit with more than 270 members, each of whom are part of either the Institute of Medicine, the National Academy of Engineering, or the National Academy of Sciences. It includes the state’s 10 Nobel Laureates and promotes initiatives to boost both academics and legislation to benefit medical research throughout Texas.

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