July 2021 Newsletter

July 2021 Newsletter

Table of Contents

Message from Chair
Fall ACS TOXI Program
Founders’ Award
Travel Awards
Registration/Writing Scholarships
Strategic Planning

Message from Chair

Greetings to members of the TOXI community! Our spring virtual symposium “Cellular Stress and Metabolism” was a big success: thanks to all of our speakers and participants. The Division recently completed a virtual Strategic Planning retreat in order to identify our main challenges and set goals for the upcoming years. Also, we have a new website. We welcome your suggestions, pictures, job postings, and news items for the web site and our newsfeeds on Twitter and Linkedin. Please contact Deyu Li on the Communications Committee.

We are pleased to share the news that the Division received a Technical Division Innovative Project Grant “Recruiting and retaining individuals from underrepresented minority groups in the Division of Toxicology of the American Chemical Society”. This effort will support individuals from URM groups to become TOXI members, attend the national meeting, and engage in an ongoing mentoring program.

The Fall 262nd ACS National Meeting & Exposition (Aug 22, 2021 – Aug 26, 2021) will be conducted in a hybrid format in Atlanta, GA and online. Penny Beuning and Michael Trakselis have put together an excellent program for our Fall symposium. You can find the program and abstracts at this link: Full Program and abstracts. A few highlights: our 2021 keynote speaker is Patrick Breysse (CDC). Congratulations to John Essigmann, winner of the Founders’ Award, and to Christie Sayes, the winner of the 2021 CRT Young Investigator Award. Maureen McKeague will present the Kavli Foundation Emerging Leader in Chemistry Lecture. Her talk is titled Chemistry of DNA Damage and Measuring Genomic Resilience.

As in previous years, TOXI will be sponsoring several travel awards for students and postdoctoral fellows who present abstracts in the TOXI program at the National ACS Meeting. We will also offer Graduate Students and Postdocs the opportunity to write Letters and ToxWatch articles based on the 2021 ACS National Meeting – TOXI Sessions to be published in Chemical Research in Toxicology. This opportunity comes with free meeting registration at the ACS member rate.

As our annual election approaches, we invite nominations for open TOXI positions for Secretary, Treasurer-Elect, Executive committee member-at-large, and a member of the Nomination Committee.

Be well! I am looking forward to seeing you in person and online during the Fall meeting.

Natalia Tretyakova
University of Minnesota-Twin Cities
Chair, ACS Division of Chemical Toxicology

Fall ACS TOXI Program

Day Time Type Session Symposium Organizer
Sun 8/22 8:00 AM Broadcast CRT Young Investigator Award: Christie Hayes Shana Sturla
Sun 8/22 10:30 AM Broadcast Founders’ Award:  John Essigmann Stephen Hecht
Sun 8/22 2:00 PM Broadcast Keynote Lecture:  Patrick Breysse Natalia Tretyakova
Sun 8/22 4:30 PM Broadcast Toxicants & Cellular Aging Michael Trakselis and Laura Niedernhofer
Sun 8/22 7:00 PM In-person Posters Erin Prestwich and Ujjal Sarkar
Mon 8/23 8:00 AM Broadcast Student & Post-Doctoral Scholar Symposium Erin Prestwich and Ujjal Sarkar
Mon 8/23 10:30 AM Broadcast TOXI at 25: Chemical Toxicology Division Anniversary Symposium Michael Trakselis and Sarah Shuck
Mon 8/23 2:00 PM Broadcast Thinking Outside the Well: Novel Assays in Drug Discovery & Development Donna Huryn and Michael Walters
Mon 8/23 7:00 PM In-person Sci-Mix
Tues 8/24 11:00 AM Virtual Business Meeting Natalia Tretyakova
Tues 8/24 12:30 PM Virtual Posters Erin Prestwich and Ujjal Sarkar
Tues 8/24 2:00 PM Virtual Topics in Chemical Toxicology Sarah Shuck and Linlin Zhao
Tues 8/24 4:30 PM Virtual Harnessing the Microbiome for Disease Prevention & Therapy Nicholas Meanwell and Fred Guengerich

Founders’ Award

Dr. John M. Essigmann for the Founders’ Award of the Division of Chemical Toxicology of the American Chemical Society

By Deyu Li, University of Rhode Island. 

John Essigmann
John Essigmann

Dr. John M. Essigmann is the winner for the 2021 Founders Award by the Division of Chemical Toxicology of the American Chemical Society. Dr. Essigmann has made significant contributions to the field of chemical toxicology. Currently, Dr. Essigmann is the William R. and Betsy P. Leitch Professor in the Departments of Chemistry and Biological Engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He recently transitioned from Director of the MIT Center for Environmental Health Sciences to Deputy Director. He has been the PI of the MIT Training Grant in Toxicology for almost 25 years and MIT Superfund Program’s Associate Director.

Overall, the theme of Dr. Essigmann’s research is to define the mechanisms underlying the responses of cells to DNA damaging agents. His research interests include chemical and biochemical mechanisms underlying mutation and cancer, antiviral chemotherapy, DNA repair, biological networks perturbed by toxic agents. Visit his lab website. His lab has made major impacts in the following areas:

  1. studying aflatoxin B1 (AFB1) and sterigmatocystin as fungal products contaminate food supplies, damage DNA and potently induce cancer in humans;
  2. developing the site-specifically modified genome as a tool to define the type, amount and genetic requirements for mutations and toxicity of DNA lesions;
  3. applying evolutionary theory to force extinction of pathogenic viruses in biological systems and inventing programmable anticancer agents that hijack transcription factors and block DNA repair.

Dr. Essigmann has won numerous awards for his scientific, teaching and service achievements. He was the recipient of awards from the American Chemical Society, American Association for Cancer Research, Society of Toxicology, and American Society for Microbiology. He has also been recognized by the Mutation Research Award given jointly by the ACS and the Environmental Mutagenesis and Genomics Society, the Arthur C. Smith Award, a Susan B. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation Award, an NIH R35 Outstanding Investigator Award, an R37 MERIT Award, and the Gold Medal presented by Princess Chulabhorn of Thailand for contributions to research and teaching in the developing world. Below are some detailed descriptions of his seminal accomplishments.

Aflatoxin B1 and sterigmatocystin are produced by fungi that contaminate food supplies and induce cancer in humans, mainly in the developing world. Dr. Essigmann’s doctoral thesis with Gerald Wogan dealt with the modification of nucleic acids during carcinogenesis. This work led to the identification of aflatoxin-DNA adducts, to the identification of the electrophilic epoxide that produced adducts, and helped to show the relevance of adduction to carcinogenic risk. His work also demonstrated the excretion of aflatoxin-DNA adducts in urine, which inspired colleagues at Johns Hopkins University to use adducts in urine for non-invasive body burden measurements in humans. Recently, Essigmann, with Larry Loeb, applied duplex consensus sequencing to an animal model of AFB1 induced liver cancer. The mutational patterns observed were of extraordinarily high detail and allowed bioinformatic connections to be made between the mutational spectra of aflatoxin in mice and mutational patterns seen in human hepatocellular carcinomas in areas of the world where people are exposed to this toxin. His lab is working with epidemiologists to translate measurement of those patterns as early warning signals for liver cancer (liver cancer is untreatable now, so early detection leading to surgical intervention is a leading approach to the problem of human liver cancer).

His laboratory is best known for the placement of DNA adducts of known structure at specific places in the genomes of replicating viral or plasmid vectors. This far, his group has defined the biological properties in living cells of over 100 DNA lesions, including those of alkylated bases (e.g., O6-methylguanine and 1,N6-ethenoadenine), aflatoxin, oxidants (e.g., 7,8-dihydro-8-oxoguanine, or 8-oxoG), aromatic amines (e.g., 4-aminobiphenyl), toxic metals, base halogenation products, mutagenic drugs and nitrofurans. By studying the biological properties of adducts in cells of different DNA repair and replication backgrounds, his lab was able to make precise statements regarding the biological systems that protect against, or confer susceptibility, to various types of DNA damage.

John’s lab has always been alert to find the “translational opportunities” in basic science. Mutagens can accelerate the process of population diversification. With Larry Loeb and J. Mullins, he contaminated the nucleotide pool of mammalian cells with nucleotides that had known mutagenic properties. Early experiments showed that HIV could be pushed to extinction in a cell culture system using 5-substituted cytosine derivatives. This work led directly to a drug candidate (KP-1212/KP-1461) in Phase II clinical trial as an antiviral agent. His lab also developed programmable anticancer agents that displace transcription factors from their promoters and block DNA repair. Several agents were designed in which a DNA damaging nitrogen mustard was tethered as “warhead” to a ligand for a steroid receptor that is over-expressed in cancer cells. These agents show good anticancer properties, and one (11-beta dichloro) shows promise as an agent to treat the debilitating cysts formed in animal models of polycystic kidney disease.

Dr. Essigmann made significant impacts on training students and serving the community. He chaired MIT’s Committee on Undergraduate Admissions and Financial Aid and MIT’s Taskforce on Minority Student Achievement. He has also served the Head of House (faculty resident) for Simmons Hall at MIT for many years. Dr. Essigmann has led the MIT T32 training program for almost 25 years, working with 18 faculty members from 7 departments who have research and teaching interests in the area of toxicology. Many of the student and postdoctoral scholars trained from his lab are faculty members in the US and other countries. Not limited to domestic service, for over 20 years he has taught in Thailand during the summers and helped found a certified predoctoral training program there that attracts students from 14 countries. This exercise keeps him focused on applications of toxicology research to developing world problems. John also taught biochemistry with Dr. JoAnne Stubbe for twenty years with a specific focus on the use of knowledge of organic chemistry rules to make seemingly complicated metabolic pathways understandable. Dr. Essigmann has participated and gave talks in our annual division meetings. He has published more than 200 papers. Among them, many were published in Chemical Research in Toxicology, the flagship journal of our division. It should be noted John’s 1988 field-defining review article with Ashis Basu was “Page 1 of Volume 1” of the inaugural issue of Chemical Research in Toxicology. This paper has inspired so many young chemical toxicologists at the time and now 30 years later.

With the outstanding achievements in science, his service to the Chemical Toxicology community, and his tireless devotion to mentoring junior faculty members and students, Dr. John Essigmann is a well-deserved winner of the Founders Award supported by the Division of Chemical Toxicology.

Travel Awards

TOXI Sponsors travel awards for Students and Post-docs who present abstracts in the TOXI program at the National ACS Meeting. The number of awards and their amount is contingent on available funding.

To apply, send an email with the subject line “TOXI travel grant application” with a single pdf file containing:

  1. A nomination letter from the faculty advisor or laboratory director. The letter should explain why Travel Assistance Award funds are needed.
  2. A curriculum vitae for the applicant, no more than 2 pages in length.
  3. Your abstract submitted to the meeting, including whether you plan to attend in person or remotely.

The file should be named: LastName_TOXI_Travel.pdf, in which “LastName” is your last name, and send to: penny@neu.edu

Applications are due July 31, 2021

Registration/Writing Scholarships

Call for Graduate Students and Postdocs to write CRT Letters and ToxWatch articles based on the 2021 ACS National Meeting – TOXI Sessions.

(ACS member rate meeting registration fees will be reimbursed.)

If selected, students/postdocs are required to write a short half to full page text or create a graphic on the following opportunities.

  1. Interview and write a Letter to the Editor (Chemical Research in Toxicology (CRT)) on one of three TOXI Award Speakers.
    • Keynote Speaker – Patrick Breysse (Director, National Center Environmental Health),
    • Founders Award – John Essigmann (Professor, MIT)
    • CRT Young Investigator – Christie Sayes (Associate Professor, Baylor)
  2. Partner to write and submit a ToxWatch CRT article on one of three Thematic TOXI Symposia. (example)
    • Toxicants & Cellular Aging
    • Thinking Outside the Well: Novel Assays in Drug Discovery & Development
    • Harnessing the Microbiome for Disease Prevention & Therapy

Students/Postdocs will work with the Sessions Chairs to develop manuscripts for publication as Letters to the Editor or ToxWatch articles published in Chemical Research in Toxicology. TOXI Chair (Penny Beuning) and Vice-Chair (Michael Trakselis) will facilitate interviews with several of the speakers. This is a great chance to get to know some of this year’s TOXI speakers.

Those selected will also attend a Virtual Publishing Workshop facilitated by Editors of CRT during the ACS meeting. Tentatively scheduled for Wed Aug 25 at 11 am EST.

Requests are due Aug 6 and should include: your CV, preference for a specific opportunity listed above, a single paragraph on career goals and aspirations, and a short letter of support from your advisor stating their willingness to help with reviewing/editing your work.

Email applications to ACS-TOXI Vice Program Chair, Michael_Trakselis@baylor.edu.

For those applications selected, your member (student or postdoc) Full Conference Registration Fee to the 2021 ACS Meeting will be reimbursed. Do not register for the meeting before hearing back about your application. At least 6-10 registration scholarships may be awarded.

This is a great opportunity to connect with and be a part of the Chemical Toxicology (TOXI) division of the ACS and the CRT author community.

Strategic Planning

Zucai Suo

To develop an actionable plan for 2021 and beyond and to address the rapidly changing divisional landscape, the TOXI Strategic Planning Committee held a Strategic Planning Retreat over the two weekends in June 2021 (June 5, 6, 12, and 13). Many thanks to Mike Stone and Zucai Suo for chairing the committee, to Amber Hinkle and Larry Krannich from the American Chemical Society for facilitating the retreat, and to all the participants!

Mike Stone

The discussion focused on recruiting and engaging members, particularly younger scientists, and expanding appropriately within merging disciplines that are relevant to the toxicology field. The committee updated the TOXI mission statement and created a TOXI vision statement. It explored challenges and opportunities, goals, and strategies. The committee came up with plans for implementing these goals and strategies. The proposed Strategic Plan will be presented to the TOXI executive committee at the Fall ACS meeting and, if approved, to TOXI membership at the annual TOXI business meeting.