Yuan Chuan (Ed) Lee wins 2011 Rosalind Kornfeld Award
The Society for Glycobiology is pleased to announce that the recipient of the 2011 Rosalind Kornfeld Award is jointly awarded to Sen-itiroh Hakomori and Yuan Chuan (Ed) Lee. 2 The Rosalind Kornfeld Award for Lifetime Achievement in Glycobiology was established in 2008 to honor the distinguished scientific career and service to the Society by Dr. Rosalind Kornfeld. The award is given by the Society to scientists who have, over their professional lifetimes, made significant contributions with important impact on the field.
Dr. Yuan Chuan (Ed) Lee (Research Professor, Department of Biology, The Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore MD) is one of the founding fathers and a "renaissance man" in the field of glycobiology. His career in carbohydrate chemistry and biology dates back to the early 60's with formal training with Rex Montgomery at the University of Iowa (Ph.D.) and Clinton Ballou at UC Berkeley (postdoctoral) before joining the faculty at Johns Hopkins. Included in Dr. Lee's many achievements are an impressive 286 peer-reviewed manuscripts and an additional 102 reviews, book chapters and books. It is quite remarkable that over half of his peer reviewed manuscripts were published since 1990, indicating that his productivity has continued to accelerate as his career progresses. In the late 70s, Dr. Lee created neoglycoproteins having a defined sugar structure and varying sugar substitution and used these to study the binding characteristics of animal lectins. This led to the important discovery of the "Cluster Effect", a geometrical increase in the binding affinity with linear increase in sugar density. This phenomenon is now recognized as a fundamental biological principle, converting low affinity site binding to high affinity glycan recognition. Dr. Lee's lab was the first to study multivalent interactions with defined natural glycopeptides and synthetic mimetics to decipher the geometric organization of the hepatocyte asialoglycoprotein (Ashwell) receptor. In collaboration with Dr. Ludwig Brand at Johns Hopkins, Dr. Lee's lab conducted seminal biophysical FRET measurements to establish the first time-resolved distance and flexibility measurements demonstrating a unique conformation for a triantennary N-glycans that correlated with the mode of binding to the Ashwell receptor.
At the same time he was developing and using neoglycoproteins, Dr. Lee was pioneering HPLC for glycan analyses. In the 1980's Dr. Lee's lab became the staging ground for sensitive and versatile glycan analyses by Dionex HPAEC, demonstrating that nearly any class of neutral or charged glycans were resolved and quantified.
Long time friend and colleague Professor Saul Roseman summarized Ed Lee's contribution to glycobiology as follows: "…it became clear to Ed that we could never comprehend how cells communicated with one another if we did not try to decipher the chemistry/biochemistry of the cell surface, or glycocalyx. It was also clear that this effort could only proceed stepwise, ie., starting with separation and chemical analysis of the relevant oligosaccharides. The analyses would have to be quantitative on a micro or rather sub-micro scale. It is important to emphasize that Ed did analytical and synthetic carbohydrate chemistry, but always remembered the biological implications, and always returned to whole cell experiments, making his work especially relevant to the biologists.".
Professor Nathan Sharon, another founding father of the field wrote in his nomination letter, "His long and exceedingly productive career focused extensively on the fundamental aspects of multi-valent N-glycans and the mammalian lectins to which they bind. Ed's scientific quests have cut across all aspects of glycobiology including lectins, oligosaccharides and their conformation and glycosyltransferases. His career has contributed immensely to our understanding of glycobiology in disease and medicine, and I consider him one of the founding members of our Society."
In service to the field of glycobiology, Dr. Lee has been a vibrant bridge between West and East, holding visiting scholar positions at universities in Japan, Taiwan and China, and facilitating international glycobiology collaborations between labs in Asia and the US. His contributions as the editor of books on glycan multivalency, editorial board member of journals, and member of NIH study sections have always been aimed at broadening enthusiasm for the field of Glycobiology. His clever graphics have adorned several journal covers, bringing basic concepts in Glycobiology to a wider audience. In recognition of his seminal scientific contributions that advanced fundamental knowledge related to how multivalent carbohydrates bind to lectins (Cluster Effect), and for his international contributions in serving as a bridge, the Society of Glycobiology has awarded Dr. Y.C. Lee the 2011 Rosalind Kornfeld Award for Lifetime Achievement in Glycobiology.