The University of Nebraska-Lincoln will host a new lecture series marked by a visit from one of the nation’s leading researchers in chemical biology.
Coordinated by the UNL Department of Chemistry and Streck, an Omaha-based developer of laboratory technology, the inaugural Streck Award Lecture will take place at 3:30 p.m. May 12 in 112 Hamilton Hall on UNL’s City Campus.
The lecture will feature Kevan Shokat, an investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute who also serves as professor of cellular and molecular pharmacology at the University of California, San Francisco and professor of chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley.
Shokat holds memberships in the National Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Medicine and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 2002, the American Chemical Society recognized him with the Eli Lilly Award in Biological Chemistry, given annually to the field’s most promising researcher under the age of 38.
Shokat’s lecture will outline how non-traditional chemical approaches have yielded important insights into the processes underlying cancer and neurodegenerative diseases. The topic stems directly from his research on kinases, a class of enzymes that help transmit signals among cells.
By pioneering an approach that can examine the biological consequences of inhibiting a single kinase at a time, Shokat has enabled researchers to link specific signaling processes with the onset of disease and home in on important targets for therapeutic drugs.
“Professor Shokat’s work highlights the power of chemical approaches for interrogating biological systems,” said Cliff Stains, UNL assistant professor of chemistry. “His work has revolutionized the specificity at which we can tease apart biological signaling pathways.”
David Berkowitz, a Willa Cather Professor of chemistry and chair of the department, said Shokat epitomizes the world-class chemists that the lectureship will draw to both UNL and Streck.
Along with giving chemistry students and faculty opportunities to meet leaders in the field, the lectureship reflects UNL’s interest in partnering with the private sector to advance mutual research interests and accelerate the economic development of the state, Berkowitz said.
“There is an important history of Streck hiring talented scientists who were trained in the UNL Department of Chemistry or who worked closely with our faculty,” he said. “Streck has a very successful Nebraska-based operation in clinical chemistry and is on an upward trajectory, poised to increase its research and development activities. UNL chemistry has emphasized chemical biology, bioanalytical chemistry and biomolecular communication as areas of emphases … and continues to build strength in these areas. So our research efforts align well.
“Both partners are interested in increasing Nebraska-centric academic-industrial collaborations, and the Streck Award Lectureship promises to build these.”