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Structural Biology Retreat in Santa Cruz

Oct 30 2019

Posted In:

20/20 Blog

Santa Cruz, CA — Members of the Mahajan Lab attended Stanford’s Department of Structural Biology Scientific Retreat held in Santa Cruz at the Chaminade Resort. The retreat gave students, post-doctoral fellows, and faculty the opportunity to share their most recent research findings. Collaboration between the structural biology program and ophthalmology is paving the way for innovative research on the design of novel drugs for the most difficult to treat eye diseases.

William Weis Ph.D., Professor and Chairman of the Department of Structural Biology, and Soichi Wakatsuki Ph.D., Professor of Photon Science and Structural Biology and Mahajan Lab collaborator, invited Mahajan’s lab to present their calpain-5 crystal structure and enzyme studies. 

In a lecture titled, “Calpain-5 Eye Disease: Structural insights into a non-classical calpain,” Vinit Mahajan M.D., Ph.D. introduced their work describing the clinical aspects and molecular genetics of calpain-5 associated eye disease. 

Gabriel Valez, an M.D., Ph.D. student in Mahajan’s lab, then presented data on the crystal structure of the CAPN5 protease core domain. 

Gabe explained, “Novel structure-based phylogenetic analysis helped determine unique features of the protein structure compared to classical Calpains. We gained insight into three-dimensional regions of the protein that are mutated in eye disease. This tells us why the enzyme is hyperactive and how we might develop a drug.” 

Data generated by Mahajan lab postdoctoral fellow Young Joo Son showed that approximately half of all human disease-causing genes are related to eye diseases.

Young Joo said, “Structural biology researchers appreciated our studies and our effort to understand many eye diseases in the context of protein structure and biochemistry. At the retreat, we strengthened our relationship with current collaborators and established new scientific relationships to aid our search for cures for blindness.”

The retreat was attended by over eighty scientists and Stanford leaders in structural biology, including Nobel laureates, Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigators, and members of the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center laboratories.