First QB3 Scientific Director Elected to National Academy of Sciences

By Wallace Ravven, UCSF News Services | May 2, 2007

David Agard, PhD, professor of biochemistry and biophysics at UCSF and the founding scientific director of the UCSF-based California Institute for Quantitative Biomedical Research, was elected today to the National Academy of Sciences. Election is considered one of the highest honors for an American scientist.

Agard also holds a prestigious appointment as an investigator at UCSF in the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. His election brings to 33 the number of UCSF faculty members chosen by the Academy for their "distinguished and continuing achievements in original research."

Agard's research aims to understand the fundamental relationships between structure and function of living systems, both at the molecular and cellular levels. He discovered a new mechanism by which proteins can be stabilized to survive in extreme environments, known as kinetic stability, which has implications for protein engineering. As part of his research, he also discovered the molecular mechanism that the drug tamoxifen uses to block the effects of estrogen, a process that has been shown to prevent breast cancer in some high-risk women. The discovery -- a structural insight about how tamoxifen changes the normal shape of a receptor of estrogen molecules -- provides clues to the design of more effective disease-preventing drugs. This work is being extended by recent structural studies on another related drug target, hsp90, a protein that aids in the folding and function of the estrogen and other steroid receptors.

Read more at Wallace Ravven, UCSF News Services