Science world honors Kevan Shokat for high-impact cancer research

February 20, 2023

Kevan Shokat photographed at UCSF

Kevan Shokat photographed at UCSF. Photo by Noah Berger.

The UC San Francisco scientist who developed a successful approach to drugging a protein produced by the mutated KRAS gene has won two prestigious awards in the opening weeks of 2023. The discovery, made by Kevan Shokat, (Ph.D., '91, Chem) in 2013 opened up new avenues for cancer treatment and research.

Mutations in the KRAS gene, which drive 30% of human cancers and are the culprits behind many challenging-to-treat lung, colon, and pancreatic tumors were deemed “undruggable” for decades until Shokat found a pocket in one mutated protein’s shape where he could lodge a drug.

Last month, Shokat, a professor of cellular and molecular pharmacology, was recognized by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) with the organization’s annual Award for Scientific Discovery – given for pioneering breakthroughs in chemical biology to advance cancer therapy. He received $50,000 in prize money and another $50,000 to support his research.

The pace of KRAS drug discovery is moving so fast now that our assumptions about what seems possible are changing month-by-month. -- Kevan Shokat

In a statement, the NAS called Shokat “a pioneer of modern chemical biology, using innovative approaches to develop powerful molecular tools to advance basic knowledge and combat devastating diseases.”

More recently, Shokat was also honored as the recipient of the Sjöberg Prize from the Swedish Academy of Sciences, the same body that awards the Nobel prizes for physics, chemistry and economics.

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