NIGMS Branch Chief Smith Mourned
Dr. Ward Smith, chief of NIGMS’s Biomedical Technology Branch in the Division of Biophysics, Biomedical Technology, and Computational Biology, passed away in early July.
Smith first joined NIGMS in 2007 as a program director in the former Division of Cell Biology and Biophysics. Among his major contributions to NIGMS were his management of the Protein Structure Initiative, for which he was honored with an NIH Director’s Award, and of the NIH-supported synchrotron facilities. Smith also oversaw a large portfolio of grants in biomedical technology. The recipient of several NIGMS awards, he will be remembered as a well-liked colleague who was generous with his time and was wiling to help others.
Prior to coming to NIGMS, Smith had an illustrious career in academia and industry. After receiving his Ph.D. at the University of Michigan, where he worked in the lab with Dr. Martha Ludwig, he joined Dr. David Eisenberg’s lab at the University of California, Los Angeles, where he conducted structural studies on ribulose-1,5-biphosphate carboxylase/oxygenase, a photosynthetic enzyme essential to the global carbon cycle. He went on to spend most of his career in industry where he applied his crystallography expertise and served in leadership positions.
Major contributions included crystallizing the enzyme that’s the target of glyphosate (an active ingredient in weedkillers) and solving the structure of thymidylate synthase with 5-fluorouracil, one of the first examples of the structure of a drug bound to its target. Other work helped launch the paradigm of structure-based drug design.