Boston College chemist named Paul G. Allen F

Eranthie Weerapana, Professor of Chemistry at Boston College

Image: Eranthie Weerapana, professor of chemistry at Boston College, and her colleague Abhishek Chatterjee were named Allen Distinguished Investigators by the Paul G. Allen Frontiers Group.
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Photo credit: Boston College

Boston College Chemist Eranthie Weerapana and Abhishek Chatterjee were named 2022 Paul G. Allen Frontiers Group Distinguished Investigators, an honor supported with $1.2 million in support of their work to develop a technique to study protein lifespan in a cell critical to the body’s immune system.

The couple is one of them 16 new Allen Distinguished Investigators in eight teams developing technologies and designing approaches to answer crucial questions in biology, according to the Allen Frontiers Group, part of the broad array of research and innovation initiatives pioneered over the past four decades by the late philanthropist and Microsoft co-founder Paul G Allen.

“We are delighted to be recognized as an Allen Distinguished Investigator by the Paul G. Allen Frontiers Group,” said Chatterjee. “The research support provided by this award will help us develop an exciting early-stage technology with tremendous potential.”

Although techniques exist to capture the entire suite of proteins in a single cell — also known as the proteome — it’s still difficult to capture the dynamics of protein synthesis and protein degradation on a large scale, the researchers said. To understand protein lifetime variation in the context of the whole proteome, Chatterjee and Weerapana are developing new technologies to label and measure newly created proteins at specific time points. They will use this technique to study the lifespan of proteins in a type of immune cell known as a T cell.

“Techniques are now available to analyze with increasing sophistication the entire body of proteins present in a cell — also known as its proteome,” the researchers said. “However, it remains a challenge to determine when and where different groups of proteins are synthesized and degraded in living cells, even though such dynamic processes underlie almost all aspects of biology. With this support, we will close this knowledge gap by developing technology to label the specific subset of proteins synthesized at a specific location and/or time frame in a cell so that they can be selectively isolated and characterized.”

“We are thrilled and proud that Eranthie and Abhishek’s research is being recognized with this prestigious award,” said Professor of Chemistry and Margaret & Thomas Vanderslice Chair Dunwei Wang. “The associated financial support will help move their program forward. This is well deserved.”

Founded in 2016, the Paul G. Allen Frontiers Group, a division of the Allen Institute, is dedicated to exploring the life sciences landscape to identify and advance ideas that will transform the world. The Frontiers Group recommends funding for the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, which then invests through award mechanisms to accelerate our understanding of biology, including: Allen Discovery Centers at partner institutions for leadership-oriented, compass-guided research; and Allen Distinguished Investigators for Frontier Exploration of Exceptional Creativity and Potential Impact. For more information, visit www.allenfrontiersgroup.org.


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