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2013 Chern Memorial Award Presented to Wistar Institute Postdoctoral Fellow Young Chan Chae

PHILADELPHIA—(June 10, 2013)—The Wistar Institute Training Committee has chosen Young Chan Chae, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow working in the Wistar laboratory of Dario Altieri, M.D., to receive the 2013 Ching Jer Chern Memorial Award. The award is given annually to the Wistar postdoctoral fellow who has published the best scientific paper during the year.

Chae came to Wistar in 2010, after earning his Ph.D. in cellular biology from Pohang University of Science and Technology (POSTECH), in South Korea. His paper, “Control of Tumor Bioenergetics and Survival Stress Signaling by Mitochondrial HSP90s” appeared in the September 2012 issue of Cancer Cell. Collaborating with Chae were Dario Altieri, M.D., Meenhard Herlyn, D.V.M., D. Sc., and Jessie Villanueva, Ph.D., of The Wistar Institute.

Chae’s research focuses on how heat shock protein 90 (HSP90) interacts with tumor mitochondria—the “powerhouses” within cells that help produce chemical energy and are also key to controlling the natural lifespan of a cell. Chae’s work demonstrated how tumor cells exploit HSP90 behavior, using the protein to produce energy while disabling its self-destruct capability. According to the Wistar team, this may also be cancer’s undoing.

“Young Chan’s work is vital to our lab and extremely important in understanding how HSP90 functions in cancer mitochondria,” stated Altieri, director of Wistar’s Cancer Center and the Institute’s Chief Scientific Officer.

“Under harsh environmental conditions, HSP90 chaperones tumor energy transformation by enabling cancer mitochondria to maintain energy production in cancer cells,” Chae said. Understanding mitochondrial HSP90 can lead to new therapies targeting cancer mitochondria, while not affecting healthy mitochondria.

Chae delivered his Chin Jer Chern Memorial Award Lecture titled ” Mitochondrial HSP90 in Tumor Bioenergetics” at the award ceremony lecture on June 11, 2013.

Ching Jer Chern, Ph.D., was a member of Wistar’s scientific staff from 1974 until his death from cancer in 1987. The endowment that supports the award was established in 1989 by his wife, June Chern, as a way of paying tribute to her husband’s work at Wistar on the genetic basis of cancer. Each year, she travels from her home in California to make the award presentation.

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