By Jon Nalick
As any courier knows, delivering a package on time is just part of the equation. But it also has to be delivered to the right place.
The same is even more true inside a human cell, where timely, accurate deliveries of chemical messages, proteins and fuel mean the difference between life and death for the cell—and between health and disease for the body as a whole.
The winners of this year’s Meira and Shaul G. Massry Prize are a trio of scientists — James Spudich, PhD, Michael Sheetz, PhD, and Ron Vale, PhD — who have deciphered how cells deliver key molecular components to the right place at the right time.
The Meira and Shaul G. Massry Foundation, founded by Shaul G. Massry, professor emeritus of medicine, and physiology and biophysics at the Keck School of Medicine of USC, established the Massry Prize in 1996 to recognize outstanding contributions to the biomedical sciences and the advancement of health.
Spudich is the Douglass M. and Nola Leishman Professor of Biochemistry and of Cardiovascular Disease at Stanford University; cell biologist Sheetz is the William R Kenan Jr. Professor at Columbia University; and Vale is a professor of cellular and molecular pharmacology at the University of California at San Francisco.
According to the award announcement, the trio collaborated early in their careers, but worked independently on different aspects of intracellular transportation. Collectively, they mapped how cells carry out their functions by developing advanced techniques to follow single molecules, and analyze their functions within the busy cellular transportation networks.
The announcement also noted that their work on key transport systems has measured the speed and force of movement and, at the atomic-level, illuminated even the mechanical shape changes of these molecular transport vehicles and their motors as they function.
Moreover, they also uncovered and defined the nature of the fuels needed to carry out these directed intracellular transportation processes.
All three winners will spend Oct. 10 at USC and will speak at Aresty Auditorium from 1 – 2:30 p.m. A reception will be held from 12:30 – 1 p.m.