Prof. Backus received her B.S. in Chemistry and B.A. in Latin American Studies from Brown University in 2007. As a 2007 Rhodes Scholar and an NIH Oxford Cambridge Scholar, she pursued her Ph.D. in the laboratories of Prof. Benjamin Davis (Oxford) and Prof. Clifton Barry (NIH, NIAID). Her doctoral research focused on the synthesis and application of trehalose-based chemical probes to label and image Mycobacterium tuberculosis. In 2012 Dr. Backus completed her doctorate and began an NIH postdoctoral fellowship at The Scripps Research Institute in the laboratory of Prof. Benjamin Cravatt. At TSRI she developed chemical proteomics platforms to conduct covalent fragment-based screening at cysteine and lysine residues proteome-wide. Prof. Backus is an Assistant Professor of Biological Chemistry at the David Geffen School of Medicine an Assistant Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry at UCLA.
Small molecule and antibody modulators of the immune system have proven efficacious in the treatment of cancer, infectious diseases and autoimmune disorders. These successes underline the need for other immunomodulatory agents, in particular cell-penetrating small molecules, that can target proteins inaccessible to monoclonal antibodies. Combining chemical proteomics and activity-based protein profiling (ABPP), we synthesize new probes and develop new methods to study and manipulate the human immune system.
Honors & Awards
- NIH Director’s New Innovator Award (2021)
- David and Lucile Packard Foundation Fellowship (2020)
- Kolin Endowed Chair (2019)
- V Scholar Research Award (2019)
- DARPA Young Faculty Award (2019)
- Beckman Young Investigator (2019)
- Ruth Kirschstein National Research Service Award Postdoctoral Fellowship (2013)
- Rhodes Scholarship, Washington State and New College (2007)
- NIH Oxford Cambridge Scholarship (2007)
- Phi Beta Kappa, Rhode Island Chapter (2007)
- USA Today Academic All-Star (2007)
- National Merit Scholar (2003)