2019 DARPA Young Faculty Award

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Professor Keriann Backus is the recipient of a prestigious 2019 Young Faculty Award from the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

Backus is an assistant professor of biological chemistry at the David Geffen School of Medicine and of chemistry and biochemistry in the UCLA College of Letters and Science.

Backus received the award based on her research proposal titled “Covalent Modulators of Proteostasis”. In this project, Backus’ team will develop new chemical tools to study and manipulate translation.

The DARPA Young Faculty Award (YFA) recognizes “rising research stars” who hold junior faculty positions at academic institutions in the United States, with the goal of developing the next generation of scientists who will address national security challenges.

Award winners receive up to three years of grant funding and mentorship opportunities with Department of Defense (DoD) contacts.

Backus received bachelor’s degrees in chemistry and in Latin American studies from Brown University in 2007. She pursued her Ph.D. in the laboratories of Professor Benjamin Davis (Oxford) and Professor Clifton Barry (NIH, NIAID) as a 2007 Rhodes Scholar and an NIH Oxford Cambridge Scholar. In 2012, Backus completed her doctorate and began an NIH postdoctoral fellowship at The Scripps Research Institute in the laboratory of Professor Benjamin Cravatt. She joined the UCLA faculty in 2018 as an Assistant Professor in the UCLA Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry and an Assistant Professor of Biological Chemistry at the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine.

In the area of chemical biology, Backus’ group combines chemoproteomics and genomics to develop new tools to study and manipulate protein function and cell fate. Research within the group spans chemical biology, organic synthesis, pharmacology, immunology, biochemistry and systems biology.

To learn more about Backus’ research, visit her group’s website.

Penny Jennings, UCLA Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry, penny@chem.ucla.edu.