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Two New CZI Awards Power Studies of Metabolism and Intergenerational Memory

Sophia Friesen

Three men with light skin and a woman with dark skin smile for the camera.
Left to right: Jared Rutter, Kevin Hicks, Jason Shepherd, and Bianca Jones Marlin, CZI grant awardees. Image credit (left to right): Austen Diamond Photography, Kevin Hicks, Charlie Ehlert, Bianca Jones Marlin.

Jared Rutter, PhD, professor of biochemistry, and Kevin Hicks, PhD, research instructor of biochemistry, both in the Spencer Fox Eccles School of Medicine (SFESOM) at the University of Utah, received $1.8 million to comprehensively catalog how molecules involved in metabolism interact with hundreds of different proteins within cells. Characterizing these interactions in both healthy and diseased cells will help scientists better understand what goes wrong in disease and how to fix it.
Hicks and Rutter’s team has already designed a powerful tool to uncover these molecular interactions. Their new funding, provided by a Metabolism Across Scales grant from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI), will let them scale up their studies with the goal of learning new rules about human biochemistry.
Jason Shepherd, PhD, associate professor of neurobiology at SFESOM, and Bianca Jones Marlin, PhD, neuroscientist and assistant professor of cell research at Columbia University, received $200,000 to study the role of a protein called Arc in consolidating memories and whether Arc can help transmit signals from the brain to reproductive cells, allowing a parent’s experiences to affect their offspring. 
Shepherd’s lab had previously discovered that virus-like features of the Arc protein help brain cells communicate with each other in new ways. CZI’s Neurodegeneration Challenge Network awarded the duo this Collaborative Pairs Pilot Project Award, which aims to support interdisciplinary teams in groundbreaking research in neuroscience and neurodegenerative diseases.