Bax Wins Welch Award in Chemistry
Dr. Adriaan Bax, chief of the biophysical nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy section in NIDDK’s Laboratory of Chemical Physics, is the 2018 recipient of the Robert A. Welch Award in Chemistry. Only one other NIH scientist has ever won this award—Dr. Earl Stadtman in 1991.
Bax is responsible for transforming nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy into a powerful and accessible tool to study the structure, function and dynamics of biological macromolecules. His work has greatly advanced understanding of how biology works at the molecular level, providing new insights into pathogenic mechanisms in AIDS, Parkinson’s and other human diseases.
“I am extremely grateful to receive this enormous award,” said Bax. “It is obviously a great personal honor, but I also am particularly excited as it recognizes the fundamental importance of the work carried out by our entire biological NMR community.”
Bax has spearheaded multidimensional NMR techniques that have become fundamental to the study of protein structure and dynamics. He introduced NMR methodology that relies on stable isotopes to unravel the complexities of biological macromolecules and made it possible to precisely measure the orientations of chemical bonds by using liquid crystals. His lab continues to develop techniques to make NMR more precise, so that scientists can better understand the structure of molecules, how molecules acquire their structures and how changes in their structures affect their function.
Recently, Bax and his team developed an NMR experiment that allows observation of protein folding at an atomic level in real time. This methodology could help identify novel pathways and molecular targets for treating degenerative diseases believed to be caused by protein misfolding.
“Dr. Adriaan Bax’s body of work is stunning in its depth and impact and he continues to make discoveries that improve our understanding of the human body,” said NIDDK director Dr. Griffin Rodgers. “I’m delighted that he’s being honored with the Welch Award for his many contributions to chemistry—and to public health.”
The Welch Award in Chemistry, named for its benefactor Robert Alonzo Welch, aims to foster and encourage basic chemical research and to recognize the value of chemical research contributions for the benefit of humankind.