Bankaitis wins award from century-old scientific society

Professor receives recognition for outstanding research contribution
July 18, 2018

Vytas A. Bankaitis, PhD, University Distinguished Professor and E.L. Wehner-Welch Foundation Chair in Chemistry at Texas A&M College of Medicine, won the Avanti Award in Lipids from the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB). Bankaitis is one of twelve scientists who received the 2019 award from this Society for advancing the science of biochemistry and molecular biology. The award will be presented to him at the Society’s next annual meeting in April 2019 in Orlando, Florida.

Founded in 1906, the Maryland-based Society promotes a greater understanding of molecular life through its publications, meetings, advocacy and support for science education. Previously, Bankaitis was director of ASBMB Lipid Research Division. He will be presenting a lecture on his lipid research at the Society’s annual meeting.

Bankaitis’ research is on lipid-mediated signal transduction, where organic compounds are transmitted and sensed within the body as a series of molecular events, resulting in a cellular response. His lab combines genetic, biochemical and biophysical approaches to study how a poorly understood class of nonenzymatic, lipid-binding proteins promote activities of critical lipid metabolizing enzymes. His laboratory’s research is widely recognized as pioneering and includes a broad array of organisms, including mammalian neural stem cells, fungi, intracellular eukaryotic parasites and plants. In addition, his lab is developing these lipid-binding proteins as novel targets for new classes of anti-fungal drugs.

His lab, in studies with his colleague Zhigang Xie, PhD, also focuses on the natural product carnitine, which is required for transport of fatty acids into mitochondria, and its possible influence on autism spectrum diseases.

Since 2012, Bankaitis has served as a professor in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Medicine and Wehner-Welch Foundation Chair at Texas A&M. He received his doctorate in microbiology from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and was a Helen Hay Whitney Postdoctoral Fellow at the California Institute of Technology before embarking on his independent scientific career.

— Tamim Choudhury

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