Prof. Dr. Brenda Schulman
Biochemistry, Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry (MPIB), Martinsried
The Leibniz Prize for Brenda Schulman recognises her important work in the fields of biochemistry and structural biology on the molecular mechanisms of the ubiquitin system. Her research focuses on forms of posttranslational modification in which a cellular protein is modified after complete translation. This modification can be triggered by the small protein ubiquitin (UB) or structurally related ubiquitin-like proteins (UBLs). Thanks to Schulman’s work, modification by UB or UBLs is now better understood: it is now known that faulty regulation results in many functional problems such as cancer and neurodegenerative disorders. Schulman has also answered the question of how UB and UBL modifications cause the structure and function of their protein targets to be modified so as to regulate diverse cellular processes such as protein transport, cell division and autophagy. She achieved this by combining protein crystallography and cryo-electron microscopy with biochemical and cell biology methods. She has also developed strategies to stabilise transient intermediates of ubiquitination and thus obtain detailed insights into the associated molecular mechanisms. In addition to these fundamental studies, Schulman is working on the transfer of her findings into therapy.
Brenda Schulman studied biology in Baltimore, Maryland and earned her doctorate in 1996 from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). She held postdoctoral posts in Boston and New York and until 2017, she worked in Memphis at the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, most recently as co-director of the Cancer Genetics, Biochemistry and Cell Biology programme. In 2016 she became director of the Molecular Machines and Signalling department at the Max Planck Institute for Biochemistry in Martinsried, and in October 2018 she was also made an honorary professor at the Technical University of Munich.