UCSF - Lecture

Pirating Biology for New Inventions

The Academic Senate is pleased to announce the selection of Jim Wells, PhD, as recipient of the Sixty Fourth Annual Faculty Research Lectureship in Basic Science for his contributions to chemical biology and protein science. The lecture, titled “Pirating Biology for New Inventions”, will take place on Tuesday, April 26, 2022, at 3:30-5:00 pm in Byers Auditorium at Mission Bay Campus with reception to follow.

A pioneer of Protein Engineering, Dr. Jim Wells’ group developed groundbreaking approaches to designing improved enzymes, antibodies, and small molecules that target catalytic, allosteric, and protein-protein interaction sites. They invented new technologies including protein phage display, alanine-scanning, engineered proteases, bioconjugations, N-terminomics, disulfide “tethering”, AbCIDs, AbTACs and an industrialized process for recombinant antibody generation. These advances lead to new discoveries into protease mechanisms, growth factor signaling, hot-spots in protein-protein interfaces, role of caspases in biology, and more recently determining how the cell surface proteome changes in health and diseases. Dr. Wells group contributed new therapeutic approaches ranging from cancer to SARS-CoV-2. His team was integral to approved drugs and products including Pegvisomant for acromegaly, bevacizumab for cancer, lifitegrast for dry eye disease, and engineered proteases sold by Pfizer, Genentech, Shire and Genencor, respectively.

Dr. Wells is a Professor in Pharmaceutical Chemistry and Cellular & Molecular Pharmacology. He served as Chair of Pharmaceutical Chemistry at UCSF’s School of Pharmacy and founded the Small Molecule Discovery Center now Directed by Professor Michelle Arkin with help from Adam Renslo, and the Antibiome Center lead by Dr. Kevin Leung. He has co-founded half a dozen companies. Jim Wells grew up in Palo Alto, and received his Bachelor of Arts degrees in biochemistry and psychology from University of California, Berkeley, and a PhD in biochemistry from Washington State University with Professor Ralph Yount. He completed his postdoctoral studies at Stanford University School of Medicine with Professor George Stark. Dr. Wells joined Genentech in 1982 as a founding member of the Protein Engineering Department with Tony Kossiakoff. He left in 1998 to co-found Sunesis Pharmaceuticals a small molecule oncology company serving as President and CSO, and joined UCSF in 2005. Dr. Wells has received numerous awards and honors, including elections to the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Inventors, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

The Sixty Fourth Annual Faculty Research Lecture in Basic Science will be held on Tuesday, April 26, 2022, from 3:30-5PM in Byer's Auditorium at the UCSF Mission Bay Campus.

Since 1957, this award has been bestowed on an individual member of the UCSF faculty who has made a distinguished record in basic science. Nominations are made by UCSF faculty, who consider scientific research contributions of their colleagues and submit nominations for this prestigious award to the Academic Senate Committee on Research. Each year, the Committee on Research selects the recipient of this award.

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