Dr. Vern L. Schramm, Ruth Merns Chair of Biochemistry and longtime chair of the Department of Biochemistry at the Albert Einstein School of Medicine in New York, is the 2017 recipient of the A.I. Scott Medal for Excellence in Biological Chemistry Research, named for one of the leading faculty members in Texas A&M University's chemistry history.

The medal is jointly awarded each year by the Texas A&M Department of Chemistry and the Texas A&M Section of the American Chemical Society (ACS) in tribute to Dr. A. Ian Scott, a Texas A&M distinguished professor of chemistry who made tremendous scientific contributions, both to the university and to the international chemistry community, during his 30-year career.

Schramm will be honored during an afternoon symposium set for Friday, October 13, within Texas A&M's Interdisciplinary Life Sciences Building. In addition to Schramm's 4:30 p.m. keynote presentation, the event will feature preceding talks by Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center chemist Minkui Luo and University of Arizona chemist Steven D. Schwartz. The symposium will be followed by an invitation-only dinner, at which Schramm will be presented with the Scott Medal.

Scott was a pioneering chemist who came to Texas A&M in 1977 and achieved worldwide recognition for his discovery of how bacteria produce vitamin B12 as well his study of the cancer drug taxol. Named a distinguished professor of chemistry and biochemistry at Texas A&M in 1981, Scott held the Robert A. Welch Chair in Chemistry and also was the D.H.R. Barton Professor of Chemistry. He contributed to numerous other works, including breakthroughs related to the essential life pigments chlorophyll and heme along with antibiotics that fundamentally impacted the field of biosynthetic investigation and helped revolutionize both organic and natural product chemistry, before his untimely death in 2007 at age 79.

Schramm, a native of South Dakota, earned his doctorate at Australian National University, studying enzymatic mechanisms with John Morrison, who, at that time, was deriving the equations for tight-binding enzyme inhibitors. Following a National Research Council-National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship at NASA Ames Research Center in California, Schramm began research in enzymatic reaction mechanisms and transition-state analysis at the Department of Biochemistry at Temple University School of Medicine in Pennsylvania. In 1987, he was recruited to chair the Department of Biochemistry at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, a position he held until 2015. He continues to lead a research program at Einstein.

The Schramm laboratory pioneered an approach to use intrinsic kinetic isotope effects combined with computational chemistry to understand the details of enzymatic transition states. Knowledge of enzymatic transition-state structure permits the design of stable molecules as transition state mimics, which have proven to be powerful inhibitors. Together with a team of chemistry collaborators in New Zealand, the Schramm laboratory designed and characterized the most powerful enzyme inhibitors known for the family of N-ribosyltransferases. Three of the inhibitors designed using this approach have entered clinical trials, and others are in earlier stages of development. One of these transition state analogues was recently approved for use in relapsed or resistant peripheral T cell lymphoma in Japan.

A member of the National Academy of Sciences since 2007, Schramm is also a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He has been recognized with a National Institutes of Health MERIT Award, the Australian Academy of Science's Rudi Lemberg Award and the American Chemical Society Biological Chemistry Division's Repligen Award. In addition, Schramm has served as an associate editor of the Journal of the American Chemical Society and as a member of the NIH General Medical Sciences Council.

For more information on Schramm or the Scott Medal Symposium, contact Texas A&M Chemistry at (979) 845-9829 or via email at chemhead@chem.tamu.edu.

To learn more about Texas A&M Chemistry, visit http://www.chem.tamu.edu.

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Contact: Shana K. Hutchins, (979) 862-1237 or shutchins@science.tamu.edu or Dr. Simon W. North, (979) 845-4947 or north@chem.tamu.edu

Hutchins Shana

  • Dr. Vern L. Schramm

  • Dr. A.I. Scott

    The A.I. Scott Medal for Excellence in Biological Chemistry Research honors the 30-year career contributions of Texas A&M chemist Dr. Ian Scott, a world leader in organic and natural product chemistry who passed away in 2007. (Credit: Jim Lyle, TTI Communications, Texas A&M University.)

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