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Sun Receives Macular Degeneration Research Award

Apr 4 2021

Posted In:

20/20 Blog, Awards

Palo Alto, CA —Young Joo Sun Ph.D., postdoctoral fellow in the Mahajan Lab, received a grant from the Brightfocus Foundation to study a key protein involved in macular degeneration.

Vinit Mahajan M.D., Ph.D., professor and vice chair of ophthalmology research at Stanford, said, “Young Joo is one of the hardest working post-doctoral fellows I’ve worked with, and his technical skills in structural biology are exceptional. This two-year grant will help support his work in identifying new therapies for macular degeneration.”

Young Joo said,” It’s a great honor to receive this funding. It will allow us to do high-risk high reward research using cutting edge structural biology methods” 

Young Joo will utilize cryo-electron microscopy to better understand an enzyme called HTRA1. This protease was linked genetically to macular degeneration. Previous work in the Mahajan Lab indicated this enzyme may be overactive in patients with macular degeneration. By understanding the atomic structure of HTRA1, Young Joo hopes to design highly specific and potent drugs against this protein.

Mahajan added, “Here at Stanford we have some amazing resources for structural biology experiments. Young Joo will be able to take advantage of our collaborations at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory. Bringing the high-tech instrumentation of cryo-electron microscopy to important eye disease proteins is an important opportunity.”