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Fred Hutch researcher Gerald Smith named a fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology

Smith joins 78 others in the prestigious academy this year that recognizes people who have made significant contributions in the field of microbiology
Gerald Smith
Gerald Smith named a fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology Fred Hutch News Service

SEATTLE – Gerald Smith, Ph.D., of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center has been named a fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology (AAM).

Smith was recognized by the AAM for his ongoing research into how bacteria and yeast repair broken DNA, a fundamental process that is necessary for cells to survive and to give rise to genetic diversity.

Smith joins 78 others in the prestigious academy this year, an honor bestowed upon American Society for Microbiology members through a highly selective, peer-review process that involves an assessment of each candidate on the basis of his or her original contributions that have advanced microbiology.

Following decades of basic research on the proteins that cells use to patch DNA breaks, Smith is now pursuing an innovative approach to antibiotic discovery that could overcome the pressing problem of antibiotic resistance development. Smith has made crucial insights into the function of the bacterial DNA-repair protein RecBCD, an enzyme unique to bacteria but nearly universal among them, and essential for bacterial pathogens to efficiently infect their hosts and to undergo the rapid evolution that is the hallmark of antibiotic resistance.

Smith also studies the formation of DNA double-strand breaks, a type of DNA damage that organisms from yeast to humans purposely inflict on their chromosomes during reproduction – the breaks and subsequent repair are critical for chromosomes to segregate correctly when sex cells form. Failure of these steps can lead to infertility and birth defects.  Errors in DNA break repair can also lead to cancer and other human diseases. Properly regulating these biological events is essential for the health of all organisms, including humans.

Smith has been a faculty member of Fred Hutch’s Basic Sciences Division since 1982, and is also an Affiliate Professor of Genome Sciences in the University of Washington’s School of Medicine. Smith joins other Fred Hutch faculty elected to the AAM which include Leland Hartwell, Ph.D., Robert Eisenman, Ph.D., Denise Galloway, Ph.D., Julie Overbaugh, Ph.D., Dan Gottschling, Ph.D., and Maxine Linial, Ph.D.

The AAM will formally recognize its 2015 class of elected fellows at the 115th ASM General Meeting, to be held in June in New Orleans.

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Michael Nank