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Dr Hau Wu gives Bert & Natalie Vallee Award lecture 2024 ASBMB
Dr Hau Wu gives Bert & Natalie Vallee Award lecture 2024 ASBMB
Dr Hau Wu gives Bert & Natalie Vallee Award lecture 2024 ASBMB

Hao Wu gives Bert & Natalie Vallee Award Lecture at 2024 ASBMB meeting

Hao Wu, PhD, Asa and Patricia Springer Professor of Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology at Harvard Medical School and of Cellular and Molecular Medicine at Boston Children's Hospital, is the ASBMB's 2024 Bert and Natalie Vallee Awardee in Biomedical Science. A structural immunologist with a research focus on elucidating fundamental questions in immunity, Wu received the award for her outstanding accomplishments in basic biomedical research. A recording of her recent Award Lecture on inflammasones -- cytosolic multiprotein complexes of the immune system responsible for the activation of inflammatory responses and cell death -- can be found here.  

In an interview for ASBMB*, Hao Wu likened structural biology to molecular anatomy, with the potential to revolutionize immunology and therapeutics development. Throughout her career, she has tackled structures of signaling proteins in the pathway for the tumor necrosis factor receptor superfamily, the Toll-like receptor/interleukin-1 receptor superfamily, and inflammasomes, and increased understanding of their roles in innate immunity.

“The pathway I study is a major player in innate immunity and holds relevance for aging, neurodegeneration, and host innate immunity,” Wu said.

She emphasized the importance of understanding the signaling molecules in detail: “We must decipher their roles to strike a balance between necessary immune responses and harmful hyperactivation and inflammation.”

Wu’s vision for structural biology includes the ability to solve the structure of any cellular complex using cryo-electron microscopy. AlphaFold and other advanced technologies have revolutionized access to structural information, she noted; however, classical structural biologists must take the process a step further by harnessing artificial intelligence and biochemical tools to delve deeper into molecular assemblies.

“I find my journey to be nothing short of exciting,” Wu said, and she looks forward to witnessing the progress in therapeutics that structural biology can facilitate.

Hao Wu is also a Vallee Visiting Professor.  She took her VVP sabbatical at the University of California, San Francisco, where she was hosted by Yifan Cheng, Professor of Biophysics and HHMI Investigator.


*interviewed by Opeoluwa Iwaloye, a PhD student at the University of Florida Biomedical Sciences Program.