Final entry in a series of three aspects I’ve been particularly proud of this year: Impactful ideas that have taken some time to come to fruition, and those who’ve been key parts of long stints of the almost 25(!) years since the lab opened in August 1998.
A great example of this has been my group’s role in developing HIF-2 inhibitors, recently recognized by the Biophysical Society’s 2023 Award for the Biophysics of Health and Disease, over 20 years after initial experiments suggested that small molecules could bind a novel cavity inside this protein complex and inhibit its function. Going from that initial lead to a clinically-used drug took great people in my lab (esp. Tom Scheuermann, as well as Paul Erbel, Jason Key, and Paul Card), outstanding academic collaborators (esp. Rick Bruick, plus John Macmillan, Uttam Tambar, Bruce Posner), and stellar industrial partners (esp. John Josey, Jim Rizzi, and Eli Wallace at Peloton Therapeutics and many at Merck). It’s been an absolute privilege to be part of a lab-to-clinic arc that led to a drug that is now meaningfully addressing a variety of cancers, and I’m excited about where this goes in the future.
I’m similarly proud of how this work nicely dovetailed with our explorations of the LOV domains used by plants, fungi, and bacteria to sense blue light – a completely different area of biology and chemistry, but with some strong parallels rooted in protein structure and function. I’ll dig into this topic more fully another time to do right by the work and the people involved, as it’s a great reminder of the need to pursue curiosity-driven research.
Administratively, I’m really keen on the progress made over almost 9 years spent founding the CUNY ASRC’s Structural Biology Initiative and watching this grow from an idea and a shell of a building into a vibrant community of research & education. Many thanks in particular to Dan Lee for being here since Day 1 to shoulder the load across the lab and floor as a whole!