SARS-CoV-2 spike protein work earns rising star award for Jason McLellan

Marvin L. Hackert
The Hackerman award consists of a framed certificate, a bronze sculpture of a rising star and a check for USD100,000.

Professor Jason McLellan was recognized as a “rising star” in structural biology when presented with the Welch Foundation’s Norman Hackerman Award in Chemical Research for having made significant scientific contributions in chemistry and biochemistry. The award was presented at a reception at the University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin) campus on 22 February 2023.  

A professor in the Molecular Biosciences Department and Welch Chair in Chemistry at UT Austin, Jason McLellan has distinguished himself as a pioneer in structure-based vaccine design. The award recognizes the accomplishments of chemical scientists in Texas who are early in their careers. McLellan and collaborators determined the structures of coronavirus spike proteins and used that information to design stabilized forms of the spike proteins with enhanced ability to elicit neutralizing antibodies. His stabilized form of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein forms the basis for all SARS-CoV-2 vaccines approved in the US, including those from Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson and Novavax, thus helping save the lives of millions of Americans and others around the world.

The event was attended by the President, Provost and VP Research of UT, plus many of Jason’s students and colleagues as well as representatives from the Welch Foundation. Catherine Murphy, Chair of the Welch Foundation Scientific Advisory Board, stated that “Every American that has been vaccinated against COVID-19 has directly benefitted from Jason McLellan’s work.” 

[Fig. 1]Congratulating Jason on his award were some of his structural biology colleagues from UT Austin (l to r): Marv Hackert, Jessie Zhang, Jason McLellan, Dan Leahy and David Taylor.

Jason will also receive the 2023 NAS Award in Molecular Biology for his exceptional contributions to public health and medicine through his groundbreaking work on the molecular biology and structure of viral glycoproteins as applied to vaccine antigen design. That award will be presented at the 160th NAS Annual Meeting on 30 April 2023. 

8 March 2023

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