Kevan M. Shokat
Kevan M. Shokat is Professor and Chair of Cellular and Molecular Pharmacology at the University of California, San Francisco; Professor of Chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley; and an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Shokat has developed chemical methods to decipher the role of protein kinases. Kinases are enzymes that transmit molecular messages through the transfer of a phosphate atom along a cellular signaling network and are involved in some of the most important signaling cascades in the cell. His goals are to understand each kinase's role in the body and to learn which kinases should be targeted to treat diseases such as cancer and immune dysfunction. In order to do this, Shokat uses mutagenesis to engineer a hole in the kinase of interest, and then synthesizes an ATP inhibitor or substrate with a bump that is complementary to this hole, allowing selective inhibition or activation of a single kinase in a eukaryotic cell. This selective inhibition or activation enables characterization of each kinase’s function. Ultimately, Shokat's chemical-genetics strategy could lead to a map of the "phosphoproteome," the complete set of all protein kinase substrates in the body. This approach could also reveal the workings of other important protein families, such as myosin motor proteins, lipid kinases, and deyhdrogenases, which his lab also has begun to study. In addition to this research, Shokat has developed a method to map the locations on proteins where phosphates bind inside cells. By pinpointing bond locations, scientists can correlate bond patterns with disease and potentially design drugs to block a particular protein before it carries phosphate to a specific bond site. In 2011, Intellikine, a cancer drug company founded by Shokat, was acquired for $190 million by Japan-based Takeda Pharmaceuticals in an effort to add two novel drug projects to Takeda's pipeline of potential oncology therapies. Shokat has received numerous awards including an Early Career Development Award from the National Science Foundation, a Pew Scholar Award, a Searle Scholar Award, an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Fellowship, the Protein Society’s Young Investigator Award, the Eli Lilly Award, and the Frank H. Westheimer Prize. In addition to his American Academy of Arts and Sciences membership, he is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies. His publications appear in Cell, Journal of the American Chemical Society, and Nature, among other prominent journals.