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5/13/12

TWO OHIO STATE PROFESSORS ELECTED TO NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Two Ohio State University professors have been elected to the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), one of the most prestigious honors an American scholar can receive.

Ohio State’s newest NAS members are Tina Henkin, professor and chair of microbiology and the Robert W. and Estelle S. Bingham Professor of Biological Sciences, and Yasuko Rikihisa, professor of veterinary biosciences.

Members are elected to the National Academy of Sciences in recognition of their distinguished and continuing achievements in original research. The NAS is a private, nonprofit society engaged in scientific and engineering research and dedicated to the use of science and technology for the public good.

Henkin’s work focuses on analyzing the mechanisms behind the ability of cells to sense changes in their environment and transmit that information in ways that influence gene expression. Certain types of cells use RNA, instead of proteins, to determine whether to make specific substances that are critical to the cells’ own survival. These mechanisms are present in a variety of pathogenic bacteria, and her lab is working on targeting these processes for development of a new class of antibiotics to treat bacterial infections.

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Tina Henkin

She is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Academy of Microbiology and the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, and received the NAS Pfizer Award in Molecular Biology in 2006.

At Ohio State, Henkin has been on the faculty since 1995, and received a Distinguished Scholar award in 2004. She is a member of the Center for RNA Biology, the Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology program and the Ohio State Biochemistry Program, and an investigator in the Public Health Preparedness in Infectious Diseases (PHPID) program.

Rikihisa specializes in the study of tick-borne diseases that infect food and fiber-producing animals, companion animals and humans. Her research focuses on understanding how unique bacterial pathogens Ehrlichia, Anaplasma and Neorickettsia can infect and thrive within primary host defensive white blood cells, and cause potentially fatal emerging infectious diseases. Her findings suggest that these bacteria use proteins directly secreted into the host cell cytoplasm to manipulate immune-system cells in animal and human hosts, effectively creating safe havens for themselves until they can build up enough strength and numbers to cause dangerous diseases.

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Yasuko Rikihisa

A member of Ohio State’s faculty since 1986, Rikihisa was named the university’s 2011 Innovator of the Year by the Office of Research in recognition of her record of translational research and commercialization activities. She also is a fellow of the American Association of the Advancement of Science and the American Academy of Microbiology, received the Ohio State Distinguished Scholar Award in 1999, and is an investigator in Ohio State’s Center for Microbial Interface Biology, the PHPID program, the Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology program, and the Comprehensive Cancer Center.

“These two outstanding scientists are shaping our understanding of some of the world’s most serious public health challenges,” said E. Gordon Gee, president of Ohio State. “Their scholarship is invaluable to Ohio State’s research programs, and I am proud that they will be sharing their expertise more broadly as National Academy members.”

Henkin and Rikihisa join 10 other Ohio State faculty as members of the National Academy of Sciences.

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Contacts: Tina Henkin, (614) 688-3831; henkin.3@osu.edu, or Yasuko Rikihisa, (614) 292-9677; rikihisa.1@osu.edu

Written by Emily Caldwell, (614) 292-8310; caldwell.151@osu.edu

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