- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
Chemist Kin Sing Stephen “Sing” Lee, a postdoctoral researcher and assistant project scientist in the Bruce Hammock lab in the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, has won a coveted National Institutes of Health K99 Award, often called the “NIH Pathway to Independence Award” or the “Career Transition Award/Research Transition Award.” The award will enable Lee to shift rapidly into a permanent tenure-track or equivalent faculty position.
“The K99 award recipients are highly motivated, advanced postdoctoral research scientists,” said Hammock, a distinguished professor of entomology. This is the first ever K99 ever awarded in his lab since he joined the faculty in 1980. Molecular geneticist Joanna Chiu, assistant professor in the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, is also a K99 recipient.
“The Pathway to Independence (PI) Award is designed to facilitate a timely transition from a mentored postdoctoral research position to a stable independent research position with independent NIH or other independent research support at an earlier stage than is currently the norm,” according to the NIH website. The PI award will provide up to five years of support consisting of two phases. The initial phase will provide one to two years of mentored support for postdoctoral research scientists. The second phase: up to three years of independent support contingent on securing independent tenure-track or equivalent research position.
Lee joined the Hammock lab in March of 2010 as a post-doctoral trainee of the Superfund Research Program, directed by Hammock. His research includes human soluble epoxide hydrolase inhibitors for treatment of neuropathic pain. He also mentors two graduate students and six undergraduate students.
Lee received his bachelor of science degree in chemistry in 2003 from Hong Kong University of Science and Technology and his doctorate in organic chemistry from Michigan State University. “Interestingly enough, it was somewhat like receiving a Ph.D from Davis,” Hammock commented. Babak Borhan, Lee's mentor at Michigan State, did his Ph.D. with Hammock and with UC Davis chemistry professor Mark Kurth.
The title of the $131,680 K-99 grant from NIH's National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences is “Identifying the Receptors of Environmentally Sensitive Epoxy-Eicosanoids with AMS. “It is an ambitious project: he needs only three Nobel Prizes to complete it,” Hammock said, smiling. “The work involves innovative a red shifted photolabel and the use of a powerful technology termed accelerator mass spectrometry to find a receptor for pain and inflammatory mediators that has eluded other laboratories for over a decade.”
Since his arrival at UC Davis, Lee has reported the most powerful known inhibitors of the soluble epoxide hydrolase as drugs to treat pain and inflammation; helped develop a new theory for predicting the potency of drugs by quantitative evaluation of target occupancy; carried out drug metabolism studies; and collaborated with other laboratories at UC Davis and elsewhere in the world. Lee has published or co-authored work in a number of journals, including Science, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), Journal of American Chemistry Society, Bioorganic and Medicinal Chemistry, Toxicology Letters,Journal of Cardiovascular and Pharmacology, Journal of Lipid Research, and the American Chemical Society's Journal of Medicinal Chemistry, among others.
He and his colleagues published two works in PNAS last year: “Epoxy Metabolites of Docosahexanenoic Acid (DHA) Inhibit Angiogenesis, Tumor Growth and Metastasis” and “Unique Mechanistic Insights into the Beneficial Effects of Soluble Epoxide Hydrolase Inhibitors in the Prevention of Cardiac Fibrosis.” The first study is particularly timely in suggesting that an omega-3 rich diet could help in cancer treatment.
A member of the American Chemical Society since 2003, Lee is a reviewer of Bioorganic & Medicinal Chemistry and Bioorganic & Medicinal Chemistry Letters, and a co-reviewer of the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry and Analytical Biochemistry.
This year he delivered presentations at the 2014 Annual Meeting of the SuperFund Research Program, held Nov. 12-14 in San Jose; and the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, April 26-30, San Diego; and the Eicosanoid Research Association meeting held March 9-12 in Baltimore. Previously he discussed his work at meetings of the American Chemical Society, and the International Chemical Congress of Pacific Basin Societies.