Dean Hanau Loeb Prize

About Dean Hanau W. Loeb, M.D.

In a meaningful way, the founding of the Department of Biochemistry at Saint Louis University was the brainchild of Dr. Hanau Loeb, an outstanding physician and visionary Dean who understood the value of basic sciences for the future of medical research and education.

Hanau Wolf Loeb was born in Philadelphia in 1866. After his early education in the East, he attended the University of Missouri, taking an A. B. degree in 1883 and an A. M. in 1886. He then began his medical studies in the Ensworth Medical College at St. Joseph, Missouri, which were completed in the College of Physicians and Surgeons, then a part of Columbia University in New York, in 1888.

After practicing medicine in St. Joseph, Missouri, for two years, he moved to St. Louis in 1890, where, with a number of colleagues, he organized the Marion Sims Medical College. The college was later merged with Beaumont Medical College and eventually became the Medical Department of Saint Louis University.

In 1913 he was made Dean of the Faculty of the School of Medicine of Saint Louis University.

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In 1924, Dean Loeb recruited Dr. Edward Doisy, then a young Associate Professor in the Department of Biological Chemistry at Washington University, to become the first chairman of the newly founded Department of Biochemistry at Saint Louis University.

Loeb’s decision was the Zeitenwende of biomedical research in our School of Medicine. He had the genius to foresee Doisy’s career trajectory from its early days and supported Doisy’s research generously, despite the modest resources available. In 1929, Doisy discovered estrogens and ten years later he isolated and chemically synthesized vitamin K. The work on vitamin K earned Doisy the 1943 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

Dr. Doisy assigned the patents on the discovery of estrogens to Saint Louis University, in appreciation of Dean Loeb’s support. The endowment generated by these patents is worth today more than 200 million dollars and supports research in the department of Biochemistry and the rest of the medical school.

Dean Loeb died in 1927 and could not witness the spectacular returns of his investment in Doisy’s research and in the department he helped found a few years earlier. His vision of success for our medical school depending on generous support of research remains relevant to this day. His genius in recruiting and developing talent to achieve success is unsurpassed and an inspiration for us all.

The Dean Hanau W. Loeb Prize

In recognition of Dean Loeb’s outstanding contributions to our department and the growth of research in our medical school, we are pleased to announce the Dean Hanau Loeb Prize for the best BMB journal article.
  • About the Prize

    A $3,000 cash prize awarded annually in April.

  • Eligibility

    A BMB lab member who is the first author of a journal article published during the previous calendar year, for which a current primary or secondary BMB faculty is the corresponding author.

  • Nominations

    Nominations must be submitted via the form below by the end of February.

  • Selection

    All primary and secondary faculty vote to select the winner.

Dean Hanau Loeb Prize Nomination Form

Please fill out the nomination form below as completely as possible.

Papers nominated for the 2024 Loeb Prize must have been published between January and December 2023 to be considered.

Papers Nominated for the 2024 Loeb Prize

The following papers have been nominated for the 2024 Loeb Prize.

First Author: Kelly Pyles

BMB Faculty: Kyle McCommis

“Enhancing hepatic MBOAT7 expression in mice with nonalcoholic steatohepatitis”

Gastroenterology Hepatology Advances, 2(4):558 (PMID: 37293574)

This paper is important as multiple reports from animal models and humans have reported that deficiency of MBOAT7 was associated with worsened nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). NAFLD is a tremendous clinical problem currently due to its link to the obesity and diabetes pandemics. We were the first and only lab to attempt to discover if increasing MBOAT7 activity, via adeno-associated virus overexpression, would protect again fatty liver disease. We discovered it did not, which may prevent a lot of pharmacologic development to target MBOAT7 in NAFLD. In addition, this paper performed a tremendous amount of lipidomics analyses, and uncovered that, while it is possible to enhance MBOAT7 expression, it is not possible to enhance activity due to a limited availability of the enzyme’s arachidonoyl-CoA substrate. Thus, future work should likely be geared towards increasing arachidonoyl-CoA concentrations in fatty liver disease instead of directly targeting MBOAT7.

This paper, and Kelly Pyles, are deserving of the Dean Hanau Loeb prize due to the large amount of work Kelly performed, and her selflessly sharing co-first authorship with a former undergraduate student. Kelly truly drove every aspect of this project. To be honest, Kelly’s contributions did outweigh the student’s, but Martin was also listed as a first author for practical reasons, particularly his future medical school applications. Additionally, there was a lot of excitement about this paper, and a figure from the paper was chosen as the journal cover for this issue.

First Author: Suresh Kumar

BMB Faculty: Nicola Pozzi

“Structural analyses of B2-glycoproetin I: Is there a circular conformation?”

Journal of Thrombosis and Hemostasis, 21(12):3511 (PMID: 37536570)

Suresh was the driving force behind this project. He designed and performed most of the experiments and helped write the manuscript. Suresh’s work has challenged and overturned a long-standing belief in our field, opening doors to exciting new basic and translational research. The quality of his data is exceptional, and his rigorous approach is outstanding. Not only is his scientific contribution recognized by our field, but also by the larger scientific community as evidenced by the commentary published in the same journal.

Suresh deserves the Dean Hanau Loeb Prize for two reasons. Firstly, for his remarkable scientific contribution to the field. Secondly, for his perseverance in conducting and publishing this work, especially in the face of pushback and obstacles encountered while challenging the dominant view in the field.

First Author: Lucas Handlin

BMB Faculty: Gabriel Dai

“Direct regulation of the voltage sensor of the HCN channels by membrane lipid compartmentalization”

Nature Communications, 14(1):3595 (PMID: 37852983)

This paper sheds light on the intricate interplay between ordered membrane lipid compartments and ion channel activity. This is the first study to show that membrane compartments/domains can directly modulate the voltage sensor of voltage-gated ion channels. The dynamic lipid compartmentalization of the lipid membrane remains a significant factor affecting ion channel behavior that has not been thoroughly investigated. Our study addressed this knowledge gap by employing advanced fluorescence microscopy techniques to visualize the localization and the protein dynamics of hyperpolarization-activated cyclic nucleotide-gated (HCN) channels within distinct membrane domains. Through the application of fluorescence lifetime imaging microscopy and FRET, this research provides crucial insights into the preferential localization of pacemaker channels and highlights the importance of membrane environments in modulating ion channel activity.

This paper also presents the first application of the dual stop-codon suppression strategy to incorporate noncanonical amino acids, for site-specific fluorescence labeling of ion channel proteins. It provides a potential structural mechanism that underlies neuropathic pain, where pacemaker HCN channels become hyperactive in nociceptor neurons when ordered lipid domains are disrupted during neuropathy.

Lucas performed some key experiments for the paper using patch-clamp electrophysiology and confocal fluorometry lifetime microscopy.

First Author: Jaigeeth Deveryshetty

BMB Faculty: Edwin Antony

“Yeast Rad52 is a homodecamer and possesses BRCA2-like bipartite Rad51 binding modes”

Nature Communications, 14(1):6215 (PMID: 37798272)

Rad52 is the yeast homolog of BRCA2, a key driver of breast cancers when mutated. Rad52/BRCA2 are called mediator proteins that drive a process called Homologous Recombination, which is used to repair double-stranded breaks in DNA. These mediator proteins catalyze formation of Rad51 nucleoprotein filaments on the ssDNA, the central step that commits the cell to repair the break through homologous recombination. How Rad52/BRCA2 handle Rad51 and the mechanistic basis for their function have been elusive since the early 80’s when they were discovered.

Rad52 was assumed to function as a homo heptamer and each subunit can be divided into two halves. The N-terminal half is responsible for oligomerization and DNA binding and the C-terminal half harbors binding sites for Rad51 and the single-stranded DNA binding protein RPA. Jaigeeth established CryoEM in my group in collaboration with the WUCCI and solved the structures of Rad52 and the Rad52-Rad51 complex. To our amazement: 1) Rad52 was a homo-decameric ring (the structure you all see in our centennial logo); 2) While all 10 subunits interact with Rad51, he captured an asymmetry in the ring and uncovered that Rad51 bound to the ordered N-terminal ring through interactions with only one subunit; 3) He discovered a novel binding site in Rad52 for Rad51; and, 4) Finally, he worked out the complete mechanism of Rad52 where two distinct Rad51 binding modes worked in unison to load Rad51 onto ssDNA.

While the discoveries were stunning, the subsequent recognition of the work was even more rewarding for Jaigeeth and SLU-BMB. Jaigeeth won both the best poster and best talk award for this work at the Midwest DNA Repair Conference. Based on his work, he was awarded the “Emerging Scientist Award” from the Environmental Mutagenesis and Genomics Society. He was also selected to give talks at the American Crystallography Association Annual conference, the EMGSUS Annual conference, and at the 6th Fusion DNA Repair Conference.

His work also setup an opportunity for our group to compose a new NIH R01 proposal that is under review at the National Cancer Institute. Jaigeeth’s work also raised his profile for faculty candidate positions and he just completed campus visit to the Univ. of Texas, and Clemson Univ. The significance of the work is highlighted by the quality of the data, the broad attention it has garnered for him and for BMB, and in the textbook-worthy answer to a decades old fundamental question in biology.

Hence, I truly believe that Jaigeeth deserves this honor for this year’s Dean Hanau Loeb Prize!

Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
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