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Researchers ‘Handed’ $4M to Boot-Up Mirror Cell Synthesis

With a new grant of $4 million from the National Science Foundation, UC San Diego’s Neal Devaraj and Yale University’s Farren Isaacs will work to design, construct and safely deploy mirror DNA, RNA and proteins; predict the physiology of cells with mirror components and assess the risks and rewards of mirror life. The ultimate objective of the project is to develop the scientific know-how and capabilities to routinely produce mirror biological molecules, which position the team to boot-up a synthetic mirror cell. Among the project’s considerations, however, are the ethical, legal, environmental and social implications around building such a cell.

Artificial Cells Gain Communication Skills

Our lab has created artificial cells that mimic eukaryotic cells. Like real cells, they can exchange protein signals and have an interactive nucleus that responds to other cells. The membrane of the synthetic cells is porous polymerized acrylate, and their gel nucleus contains DNA. Read more in this news story in Science Magazine.

Neal Devaraj Named the 2018 Blavatnik National Laureate in Chemistry

The Blavatnik Family Foundation and the New York Academy of Sciences today announced the 2018 Laureates of the Blavatnik National Awards for Young Scientists, who will each receive the largest unrestricted scientific prize offered to America’s most promising faculty-level scientific researchers 42 years of age and younger. Nominated by 146 research institutions across 42 states, the 286 nominees were narrowed to a pool of 31 Blavatnik National Finalists. From this pool of Finalists, a distinguished scientific jury chose three outstanding Laureates, one in each of the Awards’ scientific disciplinary categories—Life Sciences, Physical Sciences & Engineering, and Chemistry.

Chu-Hsien Tsai Receives William A. Lee Undergraduate Research Scholarship

The William A. Lee Undergraduate Research Scholarship provides funding for UC San Diego undergraduates majoring in the Physical Sciences (Chemistry & Biochemistry, Mathematics, Physics) to conduct a summer research project under the guidance of a UC San Diego faculty member. 

UC San Diego Chemists Use Light to Pinpoint Gene Expression

By modifying messenger RNA (mRNA)—a group of molecules that carries genetic information from DNA to ribosomes where specifications of gene expression occur—we were able to precisely trigger gene expressions at a specific time and place using laser light. This novel technique will ease future studies of individual protein functions in cells or tissues at different stages of biological development.

Defense Science Study Group (DSSG) Selection

Neal Devaraj has been selected to be part of the Defense Science Study Group. The program introduces outstanding science and engineering professors to the United States’ security challenges and encourages them to apply their talents to these issues. The program, begun in 1986, is directed by the non-profit Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA) and is sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). 

Human Frontier Science Program Award

We have been awarded a research grant by the Human Frontier Science Program. Our lab will collaborate with an international team of researchers in Spain and Japan to develop synthetic cells containing artificial cytoskeletons. Worldwide, 30 grants were awarded from a total of 1073 letters of intent. The Human Frontier Science Program supports novel, innovative and interdisciplinary basic research focused on the complex mechanisms of living organisms. 

Research on Artificial Cells Featured on Inside Science

Our recent studies on self-reproducing vesicles were featured on the popular science website Iniside Science. Watch the video "Made In California: Everlasting Cells"

Andrew Rudd Wins Inamori Fellowship

Graduate student Andrew Rudd has been chosen to receive the Inamori Fellowship. The Inamori Fellowship Program is intended to support our best and brightest graduate students who will ensure the future of humanity through the balance of the scientific process and the human spirit. This fellowship will be awarded to a graduate student with this objective in mind and based on academic and research excellence. This fellowship was established by the Inamori Foundation through a generous grant to the Division of Physical Sciences.

NIH Pathfinder Award

The Devaraj lab has received a $1.9 million award from the National Institutes of Health to develop new imaging methods that will help the more than 1 million people in the United States living with type 1 diabetes, an autoimmune disease that destroys the insulin-secreting beta cells of the pancreas. The award is part of  more than $5 million recently awarded by the NIH to UC San Diego researchers for type 1 diabetes research.

Seth Alexander Wins 1st Place Oral Presentation Award

Postdoctoral fellow Seth Alexander receives 1st place oral presentation award at the 2nd Annual Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry Postdoctoral Research Symposium.

Neal Devaraj Selected to Receive 2017 ACS Award in Pure Chemistry

Neal Devaraj has been named the 2017 recipient of the ACS Award in Pure Chemistry sponsored by the Alpha Chi Sigma Fraternity and the Alpha Chi Educational Foundation. This award is given annually to recognize and encourage fundamental research in pure chemistry carried out in North American by young men and women.

Neal Devaraj Selected to Receive the 2016 National Fresenius Award

Neal Devaraj has been named the 2016 recipient of the National Fresenius Award sponsored by the Phi Lambda Upsilon and The National Chemistry Honor Society. This award is presented annually to an outstanding young scientist who has attained national recognition in the areas of research, teaching and/or administration. 

Biomimetic Membrane Remodeling Highlighted

Our work in PNAS demonstrating that reversible chemical reactions can be harnessed to achieve spontaneous remodeling of lipids in synthetic membranes has been highlighted in the media.

Neal Devaraj Selected to Receive Camille Dreyfus Teacher Scholar Award

Neal Devaraj has been named a 2016 Camille Dreyfus Teacher Scholar. Criteria for selection include an independent body of scholarship attained in the early years of a faculty member’s appointment and a demonstrated commitment to education, signaling the promise of continuing outstanding contributions to both research and teaching. 

Bioconjugate Chemistry Best Poster Award

Seth Alexander and Kayla Busby win the Bioconjugate Chemistry Best Poster Award at the Bioconjugation Symposium at Pacifichem 2015. 

Postdoctoral Fellow Roberto Brea wins prestigious Human Frontier Science Program Cross Disciplinary Fellowship

One of 10 highly competitive 3-year international cross disciplinary fellowships was awarded to postdoctoral fellow Roberto Brea. Roberto's will be working on his proposed project of Artificial life forms: confined biochemical processes in self-assembled non-natural cellular systems. Congratulations.

Devaraj Lab Leads one of the 2013 DoD MURI Awards

The Devaraj lab will lead a team of investigators as part of one of 15 Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative awards granted by the Department of Defense this year.The MURI program supports research by teams of investigators that encompass severaltraditional science and engineering disciplines to accelerate research progress. Our MURI will aim to develop hybrid synthetic cells by combining biochemical reactions with modern synthetic and materials chemistry.

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