Galen Hess Joins the Faculty of Biomolecular Chemistry as new Assistant Professor

The Department of Biomolecular Chemistry and the Center for Human Genomics and Precision Medicine are pleased to announce that Galen Hess of Stanford University will be joining our faculty as an assistant professor in January 2021. As a postdoctoral scholar in the lab of Michael Bassik, Stanford University, Dr. Hess brings a wealth of expertise in understanding the effects of genetic perturbations to the area of precision medicine. He has combined his backgrounds in engineering and genome-editing to systematically measure these effects. He developed the novel genome-editing technology, CRISPR-X, which performs targeted diversification at endogenous loci using the somatic hypermutation machinery. This targeted installation of point mutations enables the identification and functional annotation of genetic variants including the dissection of mechanisms of drug resistance.  In addition to this technology, he has employed high-throughput screening platforms to investigate the function of genes, SNPs, and protein variants in mammalian cells.

In his future work, he will build new functional genomics tools to dissect the link between genotype and phenotype. Using these tools, he will investigate mechanisms of DNA repair, therapeutic response, and pathogens, which will enhance the treatment and diagnosis of patients.

Dr. Hess hails from Missouri. He received his undergraduate degree in chemistry and physics from Harvard University and then his PhD in Biophysics, also from Harvard University while studying with Angela Belcher from MIT. For his thesis work he established a labeling method for M13 bacteriophage to generate higher-order nano-material scaffolds and led a project to employ high-throughput sequencing for improved peptide phage display.

We look forward to welcoming Dr. Hess in January.  His lab will be housed in the new Center for Human Genomics and Precision Medicine, located in the new WIMR west wedge. – September 9, 2020


Solving new protein structure with NMR spectroscopy

UW-Madison team uses NMR spectroscopy to solve new protein structure

Proteins are linear chains of amino acids that fold into complex three-dimensional structures associated with particular functions. Extensive structural analyses of proteins by X-ray crystallography, nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy, and cryo-electron microscopy have revealed that many proteins are modular, and consist of domains that fold independently. If an amino acid sequence folds into a particular structure, it is a safe bet that a similar sequence in a second protein will adopt a similar structure. Hundreds of unique modules have been defined and archived in databases that allow prediction of structure and function on the basis of amino acid sequence. However, sequences still exist for which structure cannot be predicted. Such was the case for myeloid-derived growth factor (MYDGF), a protein of ~145 amino acids present in nearly every tissue and cell in the human body and in organisms as distant from humans as slime molds.

In a major step forward in understanding MYDGF, a recent Nature Communications paper out of Deane Mosher’s lab describes the three-dimensional structure of human MYDGF solved in collaboration with John Markley and the National Magnetic Resonance Facility at Madison (NMRFAM). First author Valeriu Bortnov is a PhD student in the Integrated Program in Biochemistry.

Read more, including a link to the full paper in Nature Communications, in a release from BMC here: UW-MADISON TEAM USES NMR SPECTROSCOPY TO SOLVE NEW PROTEIN STRUCTURE


Deleting a gene prevents Type 1 diabetes in mice by disguising insulin-producing cells

Removing a gene from the cells that produce insulin prevents mice from developing Type 1 diabetes by sparing the cells an attack from their own immune system, a new UW–Madison study shows.

The cellular sleight of hand may suggest ways to prevent Type 1 diabetes in high-risk individuals, as well as other diseases in which the immune system targets the body’s own cells.

Read more in the UW News article on this paper:

A Trojan horse? Immune cells ferry deadly fungus from mouse lung into the blood

A report today (June 27) in PLOS Pathogens shows how inhaled fungal spores exit the lung and trigger a fatal infection in mice.

The study solves a mystery of mycology: Why are spores of a certain fungal strain deadly while the yeast form of that same fungus is harmless?

Study leader Christina Hull, professor of biomolecular chemistry and medical microbiology and immunology at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, focuses on Cryptococcus, the most deadly inhaled fungus. The short answer, she says, is that lung macrophages abandon their posts as bodyguards and begin smuggling spores into the bloodstream.

Read more in the release from UW News here:

Jon AudhyaBlockages in Nerve-cell Protein ‘Factory’ Implicated in Neurodegenerative Disease

Professor Jon Audhya senior author on Cell Reports paper.





Catherine Fox elected to the American Academy of Microbiology

Professor of Biomolecular Chemistry Catherine Fox has been elected a Fellow to the American Academy of Microbiology. Fellows of the American Academy of Microbiology, an honorific leadership group within the American Society of Microbiology, are elected annually through a highly selective, peer-review process, based on their records of scientific achievement and original contributions that have advanced microbiology.

Press release from the American Society of Microbiology here. 06 June, 2018



spliceosomeButcher/Brow Labs Piecing Together the Spliceosome Puzzle One Subunit at a Time.

Read about it here. 01 May, 2018




Peter LewisBMC Professor Lewis, IPiB Student Klein accept Cancer Research Awards.

BMC Professor Peter Lewis and IPiB Graduate Student Mark Klein accept cancer research funding awards sponsored by The Ride and the Carbone Cancer Center.

Read the whole story here. 22 February, 2018




Heidi DvingeNew BMC Assistant Professor Heidi Dvinge is featured in a “New Faculty Focus” News article from UW News Service. Read article here. 23 January, 2018


Audhya Awarded 2017 Romnes Fellowship
Associate Professor of Biomolecular Chemistry, Jon Audhya has been awarded the 2017 H.I. Romnes Faculty Fellowship from the University of Wisconsin Graduate School and the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation. As a double bonus, Prof. Audhya’s wife, Associate Professor Dr. Beth Weaver of the Dept of Cell and Regenerative Biology was also selected as a 2017 Romnes Fellow. Read UW Press ReleaseFebruary 13, 2017.

Keck to Receive 2017 Kellett Mid-Career Award
Professor of Biomolecular Chemistry James Keck has been selected as a recipient of a 2017 University of Wisconsin Kellett Mid-Career Award. The Kellett awards recognize outstanding UW faculty 7 to 20 years past their first promotion to a tenured position for the quality, significance, and productivity of the nominee’s research.  February 13, 2017.

Harrison Featured in Local Media Story on Senate Passage of 21st Century Cures Act 94-5
Assistant Professor of Biomolecular Chemistry Melissa Harrison was interviewed and her lab featured by local television station WKOW as part of its story on U.S. Senate passage of the 21st Century Cures Act 94-5. You can read the story and view the broadcast story here. December 7, 2016.

Fox named Faculty of 1000
Professor of Biomolecular Chemistry Catherine Fox was named to Faculty of 1000, Nuclear Structure and Function Section. December 5, 2016

Coon, Pagliarini, Li Awarded Six Million Dollar Grant
Professor of Biomolecular Chemistry Josh Coon, along with Professors Dave Pagliarini and Lingjun Li, won a prestigious, six million dollar grant to establish the National Center for Quantitative Biology of Complex Systems here at UW-Madison. The center will advance mass spectrometry technology to offer next-generation protein measurement technologies to biologists nationwide. December 5, 2016

Oliva Awarded Distinguished Title
Joe Oliva, BMC Senior Instrumentation Specialist was awarded the university’s Distinguished title. Promotion to the rank of Distinguished is reserved for a small number of academic staff whose superlative accomplishments are evidenced by peer recognition beyond the work unit. Joe has worked in the Department for the past 26 years and has proven to be a highly skilled, innovative and independent colleague with a campus-wide reputation of unrivaled dedication and expertise in his craft. We thank Joe for his exceptional service to the Department and campus over his 26-year career. Another interesting fact about Joe is when viewed from distances of 40 miles or greater, he is indistinguishable from actor George Clooney. At lesser distances, the differences are immediate and stark. Go Distinguished Joe! December 1, 2016

Denu Co-Authors New Paper on Relationships Between Gut Microbes/Host Gene Expression in Molecular Cell. Denu Lab Member Kimberly Krautkramer Profiled as First Author
Professor of Biomolecular Chemistry and Epigenetics Theme Leader John Denu has co-authored a new paper in Molecular Cell describing new findings on the relationship between gut microbes and host gene expression. Denu lab member, MD/PhD and BMC graduate student Kimberly Krautkramer is profiled in Molecular Cell as the paper’s first author. UW press release here. November 23, 2016.

Brow Elected 2016 Fellow of AAAS
Professor of Biomolecular Chemistry David Brow is among the 2016 class of scholars elected as Fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. The tradition of electing AAAS Fellows began in 1874 to recognize members for their scientifically or socially distinguished efforts to advance science or its applications. Read more here. November 21, 2016

Coon, Ane Corresponding Authors of Massive New Atlas of Plant and Bacterial Proteins
Professor of Biomolecular Chemistry, Joshua Coon, and Professor of Bacteriology Jean-Michel Ane are the corresponding authors of a new article by a team of UW-Madison interdisciplinary researchers. The group’s work details more than 23,000 plant and bacterial proteins and molecular controls by which they execute beneficial relationships. The article was published in the current issue of Nature Biotechnology, and can be downloaded here. The UW News Service writes at length about the work of Coon, Ane and the group here. October 17, 2016

Harrison Chosen for Vallee Foundation Young Investigator Award
Assistant Professor of Biomolecular Chemistry, Melissa Harrison was chosen as one of four Vallee Foundation Young Investigators in Biomedical Sciences. The award is in recognition of future promise, originality, innovation and pioneering work in the biomedical sciences. The award provides $250,000 in funding for basic scientific research. August 11, 2016

Coon Collaborates with Pagliarini/Morgridge Institute to Provide New Insights to Poorly Understood Diseases
Professor of Biomolecular Chemistry, Joshua Coon, in collaboration with Morgridge Institute for Research director of metabolism Dr. Dave Pagliarini are developing new insights into poorly understood diseases via their latest work on mitochondrial maps. Read the Morgridge article here. Read their latest published work in the journal Molecular Cellhere. August 4, 2016

Lewis Named Pew Scholar in Biomedical Sciences
Assistant Professor of Biomolecular Chemistry, Peter Lewis has been named a Pew Scholar in the biomedical sciences by the Pew Charitable Trusts. The Pew Scholar Award is meant to identify researchers with outstanding promise in science relevant to human health with particularly creative and innovative approaches to their work. Read the UW press release here. June 10, 2016.

Engin Selected for 2016 Shaw Scientist Award
Assistant Professor of Biomolecular Chemistry, Feyza Engin, was selected as one of two UW-Madison recipients of the 2016 Shaw Scientist Award, presented by the Greater Milwaukee Foundation. The $200,000 grant is awarded to early career investigators pursuing promising ideas in biochemistry, biological sciences and cancer research. May 26, 2016

Audhya Honored with Vilas Faculty Early Career Investigator Award
Professor of Biomolecular Chemistry, Jon Audhya was one of twelve UW-Madison faculty to receive a Vilas Faculty Early Career Investigator Award. The award recognizes research and teaching excellence in faculty who relatively early in their careers. The award provides flexible research funding for one year.

Denu Honored with 2016 Kellet Mid-Career Award
Professor of Biomolecular Chemistry, John Denu is among the recipients of the 2016 Kellet Mid-Career Faculty Award, which recognizes outstanding faculty 7-20 years into their career. The award is supported by the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, and provides $60,000 in research funding. Read all 2016 Kellet Award winners here. May 3, 2016.

Brow Elected Fellow of American Academy of Microbiology
Congratulations to Professor of Biomolecular Chemistry David Brow for his election as Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology, the world’s oldest and largest life sciences organization. Fellows are elected annually through a highly selective, peer-review process, based on their record of scientific achievement and original contributions that have advanced microbiology. March 16, 2016

Sheets Paper Recognized by UW School of Medicine and Public Health
Professor Michael Sheets’ recent paper, A gradient of maternal Bicaudal-C controls vertebrate embryogenesis via translational repression of mRNAs encoding cell fate regulators  published in the journal Development is recognized by the UW School of Medicine and Public Health in a press release on the SMPH website. February 16, 2016

Brow to Receive 2016 Chancellor’s Distinguished Teaching Award
Congratulations to Professor of Biomolecular Chemistry, Dr. David Brow who was honored as a recipient of the 2016 Chancellor’s Teaching Award, which recognizes excellence in teaching. The award will be presented by Chancellor Rebecca Blank and Provost Sarah Mangelsdorf at a reception to be held March 16 at the Fluno Center. Click here to view all 2016 recipients. 16 January, 2016

Audhya Lab Paper Selected as JBC “Paper of the Week”
Congratulations to the Jon Audhya Lab for having their paper on Sar 1 named “Paper of the Week” in the Journal of Biological Chemistry. “Sar 1 GTPase Activity Is Regulated by Membrane Curvature“. Special Shout Out to Molecular and Pharmacology PhD student Michael Hanna, the first author mentioned in a separate write up. 16 January, 2016.

Dr. Christina Hull – Research Advances on “Scourge” of Transplant Wards
Professor of Biomolecular Chemistry and Medical Microbiology, Dr. Christina Hull’s work is featured in a UW News Service press release:“An ounce of prevention: Research advances on “scourge” of transplant wards”. August 27, 2015

Professor Jon Audhya Recipient of $80,000 Fay/Frank Seed Grant
Brain Research Foundation has selected Professor Anjon Audhya as a Seed Grant recipient.This award provides for $80,000 of Direct Funding over 2 years. Funding is to be directed at pilot research projects that are both innovative and will likely lead to successful grant applications to NIH and other public and private funding entities. The list of Recipients and their projects is in the email below. This was a Limited Submission Opportunity for which our office and an ad hoc Committee conducted an Internal Review. Please join me in congratulating Professor Audhya on this accomplishment. – David Schuster, Admin Program Specialist, Office of Vice Chancellor for Research & Graduate Education July 30, 2015

Peter Lewis Selected as Shaw Scientist
Milwaukee, Wis., May 21, 2015 – Two University of Wisconsin researchers – one investigating the genetic basis of cancer growth and the other, the role of genes in neural development and learning – have earned funding and a prestigious honor from the Greater Milwaukee Foundation.

Peter Lewis, Ph.D., assistant professor of biomolecular chemistry in the School of Medicine and Public Health, and Marc Wolman, Ph.D., assistant professor of zoology in the College of Letters and Science, have each received a $200,000 grant through the Foundation’s competitive Shaw Scientist Program. The annual award supports emerging investigators with innovative ideas in biochemistry, biological sciences and cancer research. Since the dollars are unrestricted, researchers can use their Shaw Scientist Award to develop preliminary data essential in competing for federal research funding.

“For more than three decades, the Shaw Scientist Program has rewarded the innovation of young investigators by providing valuable seed funding for their work,” said Ellen M. Gilligan, president and CEO of the Greater Milwaukee Foundation. “Developing better treatments for disease takes an investment in promising research, and private philanthropic support can help move these projects out of the starting gate.”

Understanding how mutations cause cancer.

Overall, Dr. Lewis is studying how changes in the chemical composition of DNA and the proteins that package the human genome (together known as chromatin) influence whether particular genes are activated or silenced in a given type of cell. His current work relates to childhood cancers. Recent studies have shown that many pediatric cancers likely stem from mutations that cause a change in chromatin structure.

“The improper activation or silencing of genes can promote tumor formation by altering the normal pathways that keep cells from proliferating uncontrollably, a common feature of cancer cells,” Dr. Lewis said. “In addition to advancing current diagnostics, our present work will also identify new molecular targets for future therapeutic intervention of these devastating malignancies.”

Securing federal funding for promising new ideas can be challenging, because there is less data to demonstrate the merit of a novel design. The Shaw Scientist Award provides the means to pursue an experimental approach, Dr. Lewis said.

Dr. Lewis earned a bachelor of science from University of Virginia and a Ph.D. from University of California-Berkeley. His post-doctoral training was completed at The Rockefeller University.

Lewis Selected as Kimmel Scholar
Congratulations to Peter Lewis for his selection as a 2016 Kimmel Scholar!!! The Sidney Kimmel Foundation for Cancer Research funds the Kimmel Scholars Program, which each year, through a distinguished medical board of advisors, provides research grants to the nation’s most promising young cancer researchers. To date there have been 247 recipients of these awards. The goal of the grant program is to improve the basic understanding of cancer biology and to develop new methods for the prevention and treatment of cancer.  May 1, 2016

Congratulations 2015-16 Hilldale Student/Faculty Research Fellowships
Congratulations to the following undergraduate students and their faculty advisors for winning the 2015-2016 Wisconsin Hilldale
Undergraduate/Faculty Research Fellowship.

Nithin Charlly (Biology), Michael D. Sheets
Daniel Hanna (Biology), Peter Lewis
Katherine Jiang (Biochemistry), Catherine Fox
Nicole Rademacher (Microbiology), John Denu
Sai-suma Samudrala (Molecular Biology), Peter Lewis
Allison Weisnicht (Microbiology), Patricia Kiley

Read more here from the UW-Madison News Service.  April 30, 2015

Dahlberg Wins Basic Sciences Emeritus Faculty Award
Dr. James Dahlberg was awarded the 2015 Basic Sciences Emeritus Faculty Award by the Wisconsin Medical Alumni Association .Dr. Dahlberg joined the Department of Biomolecular Chemistry in 1969 as an assistant professor and moved quickly through the ranks, becoming full professor in 1974.

Dr. Dahlberg’s cutting-edge research on the basic structure and function of nucleic acids, particularly in RNA, has had a profound impact on our understanding of nucleic acid metabolism in both normal and disease states. He has over 150 peer-reviewed publications and 37 issued US patents. The impact of his work and the respect of his peers is evidenced by his election to the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO).

Dr. Dahlberg became a professor emeritus in 2005, but continues to be active in his research and his service. He also recently served as interim director and associate director of the Morgridge Institute for Research.

Through his scientific discoveries, entrepreneurship, teaching and service, Dr. Dahlberg has played a key role in making the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health the outstanding institution that it is today. April 24, 2015

Hull Awarded Hartwell Foundation Grant
Dr. Christina Hull is one of two University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers have received three-year Hartwell Individual Biomedical Research Awards to support research into fungal disease and therapy for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Hull, associate professor of Biomolecular Chemistry, is funded to explore Cryptococcus, a fungus that causes brain infections in people with immune deficits due to cancer treatment, transplant or AIDS. Hull will focus on the spore — the transmissible phase of the fungus — with the goal of understanding how the spore transforms itself into a yeast cell, which can cause brain swelling, blindness and death.

Using high-speed technology at UW-Madison, Hull will screen for drugs that can either block that transformation or treat the yeast infection without unacceptable side effects. “There are not many antifungal drugs, and some of them are quite toxic, because humans and fungi are close relatives,” she says. “If you could give a nontoxic spore-blocking drug to a transplant patient when they start taking drugs to suppress the immune system, that would stop the disease process even if they inhaled these spores.”

Fungal diseases are a growing problem, Hull says. “Fungal spores are ubiquitous in soil and when we stir it up and inhale them, a whole range of infections can start. But if the inhaled spore cannot grow, it cannot cause disease, so learning to block that process could be key in the prevention of many fatal fungal diseases.” The grant will also fund studies on the role that fungal spores play in allergic asthma. UW News Release. April 7, 2015

Chanda Awarded Romnes Fellowship
Dr. Baron Chanda, professor of Biomolecular Chemistry and Neuroscience is one of nine promising young members of the UW-Madison faculty to have been honored with Romnes Faculty Fellowships.

Romnes awards recognize exceptional faculty members who have earned tenure within the last six years. Selected by a Graduate School committee, winners receive an unrestricted $50,000 award for research, supported by the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF).

The award is named for the late H. I. Romnes, former chairman of the board of AT&T and former president of the WARF Board of Trustees.

Dr. Chanda studies mechanisms of gating and modulation of biological ion channels, molecules involved in generating electrical activity in the brain and heart. His laboratory has developed sophisticated tools to study protein dynamics, and created a temperature-sensitive ion channel that rivals naturally occurring channels.

Deane Mosher Named Fellow of the AAAS
Two IPiB faculty members are among four from the UW-Madison that have been elected fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the society announced today.

-Alan D. Attie, professor of biochemistry, “for distinguished contributions to genetics and endocrinology, particularly through characterization of the genetics of diabetes in mouse model systems.”

Deane Mosher, professor of biomolecular chemistry, “for illuminating the roles of fibronectin, vitronectin, and thrombospondins in cell adhesion and migration, the assembly of the extracellular matrix, and human disease.”

AAAS Press Release

Brow, Butcher Capture the Most Detailed Images Yet of Tiny Cellular Machines
Dr. David Brow, Professor of Biomolecular Chemistry, and Dr. Samuel Butcher, Professor of Biochemistry are featured in a University of Wisconsin press release sharing their work on spliceosomes published recently in the journal Nature Structural and Molecular Biology. Follow the links for full details. June 2, 2014

Keck Receives R21/R33 Exploratory Grant
James Keck, PhD, professor of biomolecular chemistry, received an R21/R33 Phased Innovation Award from the National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. The two-phase award consists of an R21 phase for milestone-driven exploratory studies with the possibility of transitioning to an R33 phase to expand development. The first two years of the grant, totaling $400,000 will transition, if selected, to a three-year R33 phase totaling $1,330,000. The major goal of Keck’s grant is to establish protein complex interfaces as targets for the development of new antibacterial lead compounds. March 1, 2014

Harrison Receives March of Dimes Award
Melissa Harrison, PhD, assistant professor, Department of Biomolecular Chemistry, was awarded a Basil O’Connor Starter Scholar Research Award funded by the March of Dimes. The award, totaling $150,000 over two years, will fund Harrison’s research exploring the role of the Grainyhead transcription factor family in epithelial barrier formation and neural tube closure. By studying this highly conserved protein family in the powerful model system Drosophila, Harrison’s research will provide mechanistic insight into the function of Grainyhead during development and may suggest possible ways to treat or screen for neural tube defects. March 27, 2014

Joshua Coon Awarded Romnes Fellowship
Joshua Coon, PhD, professor of Chemistry and Biomolecular Chemistry, recently received the H. I. Romnes Faculty Fellowship award funded by the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation. The fellowship, totaling $50,000, was awarded due to the quality, significance, and productivity of Coon’s research program, as well as the exceptional quality and value of his teaching and service on campus. UW News Release. April 18, 2014

Craciun Receives Vilas Award
Gheorghe Craciun, PhD, associate professor, Departments of Biomolecular Chemistry and Mathematics, recently won a Vilas Associates Award. The award’s recipients are chosen competitively by the divisional Graduate School Research Committees on the basis of a research proposal. The award provides research funds during the next two years, and will be used to fund Craciun’s research on persistence and permanence of biological interaction networks. His research may help explain how homeostasis can fail due to aging or disease. UW News Release. February 4, 2014