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Published: 2022-11-30

Umeå chemist prolonged as Wallenberg Academy Fellow

NEWS Yaowen Wu, Professor in biochemistry at the Department of Chemistry and Director of UCMR, receives funding for his research on the cell's ability to recycle – autophagy – with another five-year period as prestigious Wallenberg Academy Fellow.

Text: Ingrid Söderbergh

Scientists need time to make new discoveries.

“I am honoured to get the Wallenberg Academy Fellow prolongation grant. Scientists need time to make new discoveries. Thanks to the long-term support from the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation and Umeå University. I have funding and time to pursue curiosity-driven scientific research”, says Yaowen Wu, professor at the Department of Chemistry and Director of Umeå Centre of microbial Research, UCMR, at Umeå university.

Yaowen Wu runs the project Probing autophagy by novel chemo-optogenetic approaches. He was appointed Wallenberg Academy Fellow in 2016, which meant five years of funding for the research. He now gets another five-year period and thus receives a total of ten years of research funded by the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation.

Confirmation of high-quality research

In total, only 14 researchers in Sweden have received such an extension this year. That means a confirmation of important high-quality research.

Yaowen Wu has developed new chemical tools such as protein chemical modification, chemical and chemo-optogenetics. With the chemical tools, Yaowen Wu explores how the mechanisms around membrane transport and autophagy work in depth. Autophagy is a process for breaking down and recycling the cell's own worn-out components, for example proteins and organelles. The problems arise when something goes wrong with the physiological process. It can contribute to various diseases, such as cancer, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease, as well as pathogen infections.

“In the next five years, I will focus on understanding molecular mechanisms of canonical and noncanonical autophagy processes and development of new chemo-optogenetic tools to tackle these problems. I hope some of our findings could pave a new way to precision therapies,“ says Yaowen Wu.

More reading and short film:

Read the article: Cellular recycling offers prospect new therapeutics at KAWs website (from 2019)

Watch a short film: “Yaowen Wu – Professor in biochemistry with focus on synthetic protien chemistry”

About the Wallenberg Academy Fellows:

Wallenberg Academy Fellows is a long-term program that addresses young researchers in medicine, natural sciences, engineering and technology, humanities and social sciences.

The program is set up in close cooperation with the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, the Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences, the Royal Swedish Academy of Agriculture and Forestry, the Royal Swedish Academy of Letters, History and Antiquities and the Swedish Academy.

In the end of the first five year period the Wallenberg Academy Fellows can be nominated for another five years of funding.

Read about all Wallenberg Academy Fellows Prolongation grants 2022