Abate honored by White House with Presidential Early Career Award

UCSF School of Pharmacy faculty member Adam Abate, PhD, has been named a recipient of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. government on science and engineering professionals in the early stages of their independent research careers.

Abate and 104 fellow recipients of the White House honor will formally receive their awards at a Washington, DC, ceremony this spring.

Awardees are nominated by federal funding agencies—in Abate’s case, the National Science Foundation (NSF)—in recognition of early career accomplishments that “show the greatest promise for assuring America’s preeminence in science and engineering and contributing to the awarding agencies’ missions.”

Established by President Clinton in 1996, the awards are coordinated by the Office of Science and Technology Policy within the Executive Office of the President.

Abate's lab is focused on the intersection of biophysics, microfluidics, and high-throughput sequencing, with the overarching goal to develop and apply new techniques for characterizing biological systems at a massive scale.

Roughly speaking, such microfluidics technology uses microdroplets of water (less than a tenth of the diameter of a human hair) as test tubes, which flow by in channels of inert oil at rates of about 1,000 droplets per second. High-throughput sequencing precisely and super-rapidly analyzes the biological contents of those microdroplets—such as the genetic blueprints (genomes) and activity of millions of individual cells.

One ongoing effort in the Abate Lab is to comprehensively characterize the antibody repertoires of people with autoimmune disorders, such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. This will be done by analyzing millions of their B cells to identify their antibody-generating genetic sequences and what the resulting antibodies bind to—differentiating between the sequences for antibodies that healthily bind to and help destroy pathogens versus those that errantly bind to and damage healthy tissues. The goal is to enable discovery of the mechanisms underlying disease in those immune cells gone awry and to enable treatments more precisely targeting them.

Other projects in his lab apply similar approaches of high-throughput microfluidic experimentation and computational analysis of very large sets of data to understand the evolution of proteins and their sequential interactions for applications in synthetic biology.

In 2014, Abate received the five-year, $2.4 million National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director's New Innovator Award. In 2013, he received the five-year, $750,000 NSF CAREER award supporting research and education by junior faculty.

The Abate Lab is based in the Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences, a joint department of the UCSF Schools of Pharmacy and Medicine.

More: President Obama Honors Extraordinary Early-Career Scientists

About the School: The UCSF School of Pharmacy is a premier graduate-level academic organization dedicated to improving health through precise therapeutics. It succeeds through innovative research, by educating PharmD health professional and PhD science students, and by caring for the therapeutics needs of patients while exploring innovative new models of patient care. The School was founded in 1872 as the first pharmacy school in the American West. It is an integral part of UC San Francisco, a leading university dedicated to promoting health worldwide.