December 8, 2014

It is the College’s pleasure to announce that Helen Waldschmidt, Medicinal Chemistry PhD student, has been awarded an American Heart Association (AHA) Predoctoral Fellowship. This extremely competitive, two-year fellowship was awarded by the AHA Research Committee after reviewing Helen’s research proposal titled “Targeting GRK2 as a Therapeutic for Heart Failure”. The fellowship will begin in January 2015.

“This prestigious AHA predoctoral fellowship is in recognition of Helen’s outstanding achievements in the laboratory to date and her clear potential as a scientist.  In less than 18 months, Helen has generated over two dozen analogs of a couple of interesting small molecule inhibitors of G protein-coupled receptor kinase 2 (GRK2) identified in the lab of our collaborator, John Tesmer,” states Dr. Scott Larsen, Joseph Burckhalter Collegiate Professor of Medicinal Chemistry, and Director of Vahlteich Medicinal Chemistry Core.

“Guided by high resolution crystal structures, she has succeeded in preparing GRK2 inhibitors with extraordinary selectivity vs other GRKs (over 1000-fold).  Helen’s research will have broad impact, because design of GRK inhibitors with high levels of selectivity will be key to addressing fundamental biochemical questions about GPCR control, as well as potentially paving the way for development of novel therapeutics,” adds Dr. Larsen.

The fellowships are reviewed by a committee of three reviewers, scored, and then ranked with a percentile. The award focuses on a required research plan proposal, academic records, an individual development plan, as well as the environment in which the research will take place.

“Working with Helen and Scott has been a great pleasure as it has added a completely new direction to my lab’s research efforts,” states John Tesmer, Cyrus Levinthal Collegiate Professor in the Life Sciences, Professor of Pharmacology, and Professor of Biological Chemistry, Medical School; Research Professor, Life Sciences Institute; and Faculty Associate in the Interdepartmental Program in Medicinal Chemistry.

According to Dr. Tesmer, “the novel and selective inhibitors she is synthesizing will prove to be valuable chemical probes that can be used by molecular pharmacologists worldwide as they attempt to divine the role of GRK2 and related kinases in nor­­mal and pathophysiological  processes. This honor from the AHA indicates that Helen is one of the nation’s most promising up-and-coming researchers in the cardiovascular area and that her project is of central importance to cardiovascular disease.”

“Both John Tesmer and Scott Larsen have been very supportive of me and I would not have achieved the fellowship without their help,” adds Waldschmidt.

Congratulations to Helen on this outstanding accomplishment!