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April 13, 1998

Researcher receives $100,000 fellowship from cancer research fund

By Francine Tyler

A UCSC postgraduate researcher has received a prestigious postdoctoral fellowship from the Cancer Research Fund of the Damon Runyon-Walter Winchell Foundation. The fellowship, worth a total of $101,500 over a three-year period, supports researcher Jamie Cate's investigation of ribosomal structure.

Large and complex molecules that are common to all living things, ribosomes are responsible for synthesizing proteins in cells. Scientists don't know much about the structure of the ribosome--a shortcoming that impedes some scientific research, Cate said.

"When we want to design biochemical or genetic experiments, it's like trying to hit a curve ball with your eyes closed," he said.

With additional knowledge about ribosomal structure, scientists could develop more effective antibiotics and better tackle the problem of bacteria developing resistance to them, Cate said. The ribosomes of bacteria are often targeted by antibiotics designed to destroy the organisms or inhibit their growth.

The development of more effective antibiotics would aid doctors in caring for cancer patients, whose immune systems are often compromised by radiation and other treatments and thus are more susceptible to infections.

Cate collaborates with visiting research scientists Marat Yusupov and Gulnara Yusupova in UCSC biology professor Harry Noller's laboratory. The three researchers x-ray ribosome crystals and analyze the data from the x-rays to determine the structure of the ribosomes.

Cate, who holds degrees from the University of Denver, the University of Colorado at Boulder, and Yale University, has worked in Noller's laboratory since June 1997. Assistant professor of biology Charles Wilson of UCSC and Thomas Ernest of the Advanced Light Source at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory also collaborate on the research.

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