Brian Liau wins the 2022 Damon Runyon-Rachleff Innovation Award

January 18, 2022
Professor Brian Liau

Brian Liau, Associate Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, is one of ten recipients of the 2022 Damon Runyon-Rachleff Innovation Award for his research: "Investigating allosteric mechanisms regulating DNA methyltransferase enzymes." Liau recieved received Stage 2 funding this year; he recieved the initial award in 2020. The Award was established to support “high-risk, high-reward” ideas with the potential to significantly impact the prevention, diagnosis, or treatment of cancer, and designed to provide funding to exceptionally creative thinkers with a revolutionary idea who lack sufficient preliminary data to obtain traditional funding. 

The awardees are selected through a highly competitive and rigorous process by a scientific committee comprised of leading cancer researchers with their own history of innovative work. Only those scientists with a clear vision and passion for curing cancer are selected to receive the prestigious award.  

DNA methyltransferase enzymes, responsible for adding methyl groups to DNA strands, are critical for controlling gene expression. These enzymes are often disrupted in cancers, including acute myeloid leukemia (AML), but their regulation is not understood. One form of enzyme regulation, called allostery, involves a regulator molecule binding to an enzyme at a site other than its active site. Dr. Liau is pioneering approaches to explore allostery, specifically focusing on allosteric mechanisms that regulate DNA methyltransferase function. His research will shed light on the impact of cancer mutations on enzyme function and strategies to pharmacologically modulate their activity. The approaches developed will be broadly expanded to study other enzymes disrupted in cancer and leveraged with synthetic chemistry to enable therapeutics discovery. 

Read more here: EurekAlert!