By Blake Dillon
McMaster researcher John Whitney has won a 2022 ACS Infectious Diseases Young Investigator Award.
Presented in partnership with the ACS Division of Biological Chemistry, the annual award is an international distinction that recognizes three early-career researchers who have made extraordinary contributions to understanding the biological chemistry of infectious diseases.
“Dr. Whitney was selected for his pioneering work on bacterial secretion systems,” says ACS Infectious Diseases Editor-in-Chief Courtney Aldrich, who notes that the exploitation of such systems could lead to novel methods of developing new antibiotics.
Indeed, using these secretion systems, bacteria release toxins that kill other bacteria — a key weapon in what Whitney describes as an ongoing microbial war. The Whitney Lab closely studies these toxins and explores how they function at a biochemical level.
Whitney, an associate professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences and a member of the Michael G. DeGroote Institute for Infectious Disease Research (IIDR), says he is humbled to have his work recognized by the ACS and appreciates the international recognition that his team’s research is receiving.
“Science can often feel like a siloed endeavour, so to be acknowledged by a leading scientific society like ACS affirms the significance of the work we do,” Whitney says.
This Young Investigator Award is the latest in a recent run of awards and distinctions for Whitney, who in the past year-and-a-bit has been named an Investigator in the Pathogenesis of Infectious Disease by the Burroughs Wellcome Fund, the Canada Research Chair in Molecular Microbiology (Tier 2), and the recipient of a $1.5 million team grant from the International Human Frontier Science Program.
“All of this is made possible by the trainees in my lab and the collaborative nature of the IIDR,” says Whitney. “The trainees in my lab and from other labs within the institute really deserve a lot of the credit for the recent success of my research program.”
Whitney will formally receive the award on August 21 at the ACS Fall 2022 Award Symposium in Chicago, Illinois, where he will deliver a special talk on his lab’s recent discovery of a novel antibacterial toxin that kills bacteria by targeting their essential RNA molecules.