Bankaitis recognized with Avanti Award in Lipids

American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology celebrates outstanding research contributions in the area of lipids
April 11, 2019

Vytas Bankaitis, PhD, has been awarded the Avanti Award in Lipids by the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB). Bankaitis is a Distinguished Professor and the E.L. Wehner-Welch Foundation Chair in Chemistry at Texas A&M College of Medicine. Bankaitis was recognized for his work on elucidating the role of lipid transfer and phosphatidylinositol exchange proteins in cell biology.

Bankaitis’ recent research indicates that phosphatidylinositol transfer proteins (PITPs) are crucial for coordinating the interfaces of lipid-driven metabolic reactions and intracellular signaling. In this way, PITPs act as highly regulated coordinators of phosphatidylinositol kinase signaling in eukaryotic cells, which channels lipid kinase activities toward specific biological outcomes. When the interfaces are regulated inappropriately, it can affect membrane trafficking, growth factor receptors, cell growth and developmental pathways.

Bankaitis’ lab combines genetic, biochemical and biophysical approaches to study how a poorly understood class of non-enzymatic lipid-binding proteins promote the activities of critical lipid metabolizing enzymes in a broad array living organisms, such as mammals, plants, fungi and intracellular eukaryotic parasites. The lab is also using these lipid-binding proteins as novel targets for new classes of anti-fungal drugs.

The award consists of a plaque and $3,000 and transportation and expenses to present a lecture as ASBMB annual meeting.

Since 2012, Bankaitis has been serving as a professor in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Medicine at the College of Medicine. He received his PhD in microbiology from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and was a Helen Hay Whitney Postdoctoral Fellow at California Institute of Technology.

— Tim Schnettler