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Structural Biology Experts and Information for Media

Structural biology is integral to the St. Jude research enterprise, with technical capabilities found nowhere else. Researchers in the department study the structure of biological molecules, how they are assembled, how they function, how they can be affected by mutation or disease — and what that means for human health. At St. Jude, researchers have access to sophisticated biophysical techniques — such as nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy, X-ray crystallography, cryo-electron microscopy and tomography, single-molecule imaging and mass spectrometry — to determine the three-dimensional structures and dynamics of biological macromolecules. Atomic-level information about proteins and macromolecular complexes provides fundamental insights and can aid in designing new therapeutics, materials and diagnostic tools.

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Structural Biology Experts

  • M. Madan Babu, PhD, FRSC

    M. Madan Babu, PhD, St. Jude Department of Structural Biology, is an early pioneer in establishing data science-based approaches to reveal principles of biological systems. As the St. Jude Center of Excellence in Data-Driven Discovery director, he leads a prolific and innovative research team leveraging computational and experimental methods to study biological systems at different scales of complexity. His recent work has focused on g-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs), which are the target of one-third of all Food and Drug Administration-approved medicines. A better understanding of GPCRs will have profound implications for pharmaceutical development. Babu was awarded the 2019 EMBO Gold Medal for his contributions to the field of computational biology. 

  • Scott C. Blanchard, PhD

    Scott Blanchard, PhD, St. Jude Department of Structural Biology, leads the Single-Molecule Imaging Center. His contributions to structural biology and biophysics include demonstrating that the ribosome and translational mechanisms can be studied using single-molecule techniques. Blanchard’s laboratory is identifying the rules that govern these interactions and how small molecule-based therapies might influence them.

  • Charalampos Kalodimos, PhD

    Charalampos Babis Kalodimos, PhD, St. Jude Department of Structural Biology chair, investigates the structure and dynamics of protein kinases and molecular chaperones. These are some of the most challenging biological systems to study and understand, yet they play central roles in pediatric cancer and other diseases. His research combines high-resolution nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy with other structural approaches to decipher normal and pathological mechanisms of action. Kalodimos has positioned St. Jude as a world leader in structural biology research, building unparalleled infrastructure such as the first Ascend 1.1 GHz Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectrometer.

  • Richard Kriwacki, PhD

    Richard Kriwacki, PhD, St. Jude Department of Structural Biology, investigates proteins that form fluid cellular compartments, called membrane-less organelles or biomolecular condensates. These structures regulate essential processes in cells. The formation and behavior of these compartments can contribute to cancer and other diseases.

  • Tanja Mittag, PhD

    Tanja Mittag, PhD, St. Jude Department of Structural Biology, is known for her work on phase separation of membrane-less organelles. Also called biomolecular condensates, these structures in cells lack a clear boundary from the surrounding cytoplasm. Membrane-less organelles compartmentalize cells and play roles in ribosome assembly, RNA sequestration upon stress and RNA splicing. Mittag’s work has identified how genetic mutations can influence membrane-less organelles, thus affecting the development of diseases such as cancer and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.