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Sarah Spiegel, Ph.D.

Sarah Spiegel, Ph.D.

Researcher honored with Avanti Award in Lipids.

The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology has named Sarah Spiegel, Ph.D., an internationally renowned researcher and professor and chair of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology in the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine, a recipient of the Avanti Award in Lipids.

The award honors outstanding scientists whose research interests are in the field of lipids — fat-soluble, naturally occurring molecules, such as fats, oils, waxes and cholesterol.

Spiegel, who is also the program co-leader of the Cancer Cell Biology Program at the VCU Massey Cancer Center and the Mann T. and Sara D. Lowry professor of oncology, has received multiple grants from the National Institutes of Health to continuously fund her research for nearly 20 years.

“Sarah Spiegel is among the world’s pioneers in the field of cellular signaling,” said Sheldon M. Retchin, M.D., CEO of the VCU Health System and vice president for VCU Health Sciences. “Her work has led to an explosion of interest in what makes abnormal cells grow, such as cancer cells, and what leads to cellular death.”

“We are so proud of this recognition of her work. The Avanti Award is a well-deserved honor for one of the most outstanding faculty scientists at the university,” said Retchin.

Spiegel, who is internationally recognized for her pioneering work on new lipid mediators that regulate cell growth and cell death, first discovered the role of sphingosine1-phosphate in cell growth regulation nearly a decade ago. Spiegel and her colleagues are continuing this work to better understand the functions of these enzymes, but S1P is now the most thoroughly characterized mediator in this field.

Last year, Spiegel was named a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science for her discovery of a potent lipid mediator, which she demonstrated to have important roles in cancer, inflammation and allergy.

In 2003, she was awarded a National Institutes of Health MERIT award of nearly $2.1 million to continue her research on S1P. The award is given to investigators who have demonstrated superior competence and productivity in biomedical research.

The awards were presented at the Experimental Biology 2009 meeting on April 18-22 in New Orleans.

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Updated: 06/08/2009