PNAS Paper on Cellular Iron Concentration Research Wins Horst Schulz Prize

Jia Ma, a doctoral candidate in biochemistry who will defend this spring, won the fifth annual Horst Schulz Prize, awarded by the Ph.D. Program in Biochemistry for the best peer-reviewed paper published in 2012 having a CUNY biochemistry doctoral student as first author.

Ma was lead author of seven on “Fe2+ binds iron responsive element-RNA, selectively changing protein-binding affinities and regulating mRNA repression and activation,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS) 109:22 (May 29, 2012), online May 14, 2012. The official journal of the United States National Academy of Sciences, PNAS appears weekly in print and daily online, providing results of vital research in the biological, physical, and social sciences. He will present the paper on February 22 in Elebash Recital Hall, when the Horst Schulz Prize will be awarded to him publicly.

Ma conducted his research in the lab of his mentor Dixie Goss, Gertrude B. Elton Endowed Scholar and Professor at Hunter College and a member of the doctoral faculty in biochemistry, biology, and chemistry. He explained his work and its practical applications: “My research focuses on the coordination between cellular iron-level and iron-related protein synthesis. My results show a new mechanism for stabilizing cellular iron concentration. There are practical benefits for diseases caused by excessive cellular iron, such as cirrhosis, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and possibly Alzheimer’s disease. This study offers a new therapeutic target for drug design.”

The study involved collaboration among seven scientists in four major areas: research design and performance; provision of new reagents/analytic tools; data analysis; and writing the paper. The scientists were based in four separate U.S. institutions: the Graduate Center and Hunter College, CUNY; Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute, Oakland, California; School of Medicine, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland; and University of California–Berkeley.

The prize honors Professor Emeritus Horst Schulz, who served as executive officer of the doctoral program in biochemistry for almost two decades. The selection committee for the prize consists of the program’s admissions and awards committee—eight members of the doctoral faculty and one doctoral student. Past award recipients were biochemistry alumni Drs. Leah Cohen, Kelly Levano, Prerna Kaur, and Katrina Caroccia. The call for applications for next year’s prize will go out in November. Anyone who fits the criteria may apply.

Jia Ma and lab team

Front row (l. to r.): Professor Dixie J. Goss, Alexander Ruck, Bidisha Banerjee
Back row (l. to r.): Qiao Liu, Riana Kitasova, Sohani Das Sharma, Jia Ma