March 26, 2009

Salk scientist -- one of 50 nationwide -- selected as HHMI Early Career Scientist

Salk News

Salk scientist — one of 50 nationwide — selected as HHMI Early Career Scientist

La Jolla, CA—Salk Institute scientist Reuben J. Shaw, Ph.D., has been selected a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Early Career Scientist, the HHMI announced today.

Shaw, a Hearst Endowment assistant professor in the Molecular and Cell Biology Laboratory, is one of 50 researchers chosen out of more than 2,000 applicants and will receive a six-year appointment to HHMI.

“Reuben Shaw is an incredibly talented young researcher who has already made his mark,” said William R. Brody, president of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies. “His appointment is a testament to his creativity, tireless enthusiasm and the promise of his work.”

Shaw is particularly interested in understanding the molecular link between cancer and metabolism. While studying one of the most commonly mutated genes in lung cancer, he discovered an ancient energy-sensing pathway that shuts down cell growth and reprograms metabolism when nutrients are scarce.

Epidemiological studies have shown that individuals with type 2 diabetes have an elevated risk for certain forms of cancer. Shaw thinks that deregulation of the energy-sensing mechanism may explain why some cell types are more likely to give rise to cancer when metabolism is altered. On the upside, existing diabetes therapeutics may prove useful as chemotherapeutics for forms of cancer with mutations in this pathway, which he plans to further explore with his new appointment.

Shaw’s lab is also searching for additional components of the pathway to fill in the molecular understanding of how the molecular intersection between nutrition, diabetes and cancer truly functions. He plans to use mouse studies to further explore this critical connection and tease out the precise role of each component of the signaling pathway. These studies will lead to future therapeutic targets and new intervention points in both cancer and type 2 diabetes.

In selecting the finalists, HHMI was guided by the same “people, not projects” philosophy that defines its investigator program. Like HHMI investigators, the Early Career Scientists will have the freedom to explore and, if necessary, change direction in their research.

Shaw’s appointment brings the total number of HHMI investigators at the Salk Institute to eight.

About the Salk Institute for Biological Studies:
The Salk Institute for Biological Studies is one of the world’s preeminent basic research institutions where internationally renowned faculty probe fundamental life science questions in a unique, collaborative and creative environment. Focused on both discovery and mentoring future generations of researchers, Salk scientists make groundbreaking contributions to our understanding of cancer, aging, Alzheimer’s, diabetes and cardiovascular disorders by studying neuroscience, genetics, cell and plant biology and related disciplines.

Faculty achievements have been recognized with numerous honors, including Nobel Prizes and memberships in the National Academy of Sciences. Founded in 1960 by polio vaccine pioneer Jonas Salk, M.D., the Institute is an independent nonprofit organization and architectural landmark.

About HHMI:
The Howard Hughes Medical Institute, a non-profit medical research organization that ranks as one of the nation’s largest philanthropies, plays a powerful role in advancing biomedical research and science education in the United States. In the past two decades HHMI has made investments of more than $8.3 billion for the support, training, and education of the nation’s most creative and promising scientists.

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