Christopher Walsh wins 2004 Promega Biotechnology Research Award

04/30/04

WASHINGTON, DC--APRIL 23, 2004--Christopher T. Walsh, Ph.D., Hamilton Kuhn Professor of Biological Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology, Harvard Medical School, Cambridge, Massachusetts, will receive the 2004 Promega Biotechnology Research Award from the American Society for Microbiology (ASM). Supported by Promega Corporation, the award honors Walsh for his landmark contributions to the field of microbial biochemistry, particularly for his findings on natural product biosynthesis and biotechnology. At the ASM General Meeting, Walsh will deliver the Promega Award Lecture, "Vancomycin: Action, Origin, Resistance; The Evolving Story of a Natural Product Antibiotic."

Walsh's invaluable achievements include uncovering how disease-causing enterococci can make themselves resistant to the antibiotic vancomycin, how antibiotics such as gramicidin and tyrocidine are naturally synthesized by bacteria, and how bacteria use iron-binding substances called siderophores to control important aspects of microbial virulence.

Each of these projects has vital implications for future drug research. For example, Walsh's research on tyrocidine, a naturally produced antibiotic, has led to the construction of new manufactured compounds, which are as strong as naturally produced tyrocidine, while targeting infections more selectively. His work on vancomycin resistance, which showed how pathogenic enterococci eliminate a key hydrogen bond in their cell walls to alter the effectiveness of this drug, has also directly affected current antibiotic development. Walsh's research has had other, far-reaching implications as well: his attention to vancomycin resistance heightened awareness of this phenomenon long before microbial resistance to antibiotic drugs became an issue of grave concern in health care.

Walsh earned his A.B. in biology at Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, and his Ph.D. in life sciences at the Rockefeller University, New York, New York. He completed a postdoctoral fellowship in biochemistry at Brandeis University, Waltham, Massachusetts. He is a member of the Institute of Medicine and the National Academy of Sciences, a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology.

The Promega Biotechnology Research Award will be presented at the 104th General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology (ASM), May 2327, 2004, in New Orleans, Louisiana. ASM is the largest single life science society, composed of over 42,000 scientists, teachers, physicians, and health professionals. Its mission is to promote research and training in the microbiological sciences and to assist communication between scientists, policymakers, and the public to improve health, economic well-being, and the environment.

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