Pennsylvania State University

For outstanding work in enzyme chemistry where the presence of enzyme action is unequivocally demonstrated.

Professor Amie Boal is the recipient of the 2021 Pfizer Award in Enzyme Chemistry in recognition of the extensive contributions she and her laboratory have made toward understanding enzyme function. Prof. Amie Boal received her PhD in Chemistry from Caltech in 2008 working under the direction of Prof. Barton and completed her postdoctoral studies with Prof. Rosenzweig at Northwestern. Currently, she is a tenured faculty member at Penn State University in the Departments of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and Chemistry. Prof. Boal has largely focused her independent studies on a variety of metalloenzymes that carry out complex reactions in nature, ranging from nucleic acid biogenesis to natural product biosynthesis. Her three overarching objectives are: 1) identification of the key outcome-dictating structural characteristics of a given catalyst, 2) reprogramming for new function using insight from structure, and 3) understanding the adaptive advantages in choice of metallocofactor or assembly pathway.

In each of these projects, her structural biology approach has been critical to gaining mechanistic or regulatory insights into the enzymology of the system. These experiments are challenging due to the fleeting and reactive nature of the intermediate states, but the results can be uniquely informative because of the fully contextualized view they provide at critical points in catalysis. Notable examples of Prof. Boal’s successes include revealing the structural basis for methyl transfer by radical SAM enzymes, the discovery and characterization of ribonucleotide reductases that employ unusual mechanisms for substrate activation, including novel metal-free systems, and uncovering mechanisms and intermediates involved in catalysis by mononuclear nonheme iron dependent 2-oxoglutarate dioxygenases. Building on earlier recognition with an NIH K99/R00 Pathway to Independence Award and a NIH Ruth Kirschstein National Research Service Award, the extensive independent contributions by the Boal lab have also been recognized by Searle Scholars Program and a Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award. It is our honor to further this recognition with the Pfizer Award in Enzyme Chemistry as we look forward to her future contributions.