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In this issue:
Scientists Identify Achilles' Heel of Flu Viruses
SLAC Theorists Named APS Outstanding Reviewers
Italy's Devastating Quake Jolts Gran Sasso Region

SLAC Today

Tuesday - April 7, 2009

Scientists Identify Achilles' Heel of Flu Viruses

Broad spectrum neutralizing antibody F10 in complex with the viral protein hemagglutinin H5.

Scientists have recently identified a family of human antibodies that defend against an unprecedented number of flu virus types, including seasonal flu as well as the deadly H5N1 "bird flu" and 1918 H1N1 "Spanish flu," which killed millions during World War I. A scientific team led by Robert Liddington from the Burnham Institute for Medical Research used the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource's Beamline 9-2 to unveil the molecular mechanism by which one of these antibodies, called F10, neutralizes viruses. The results were published online in the February 22 issue of Nature Structural and Molecular Biology.

Using X-ray crystallography, the team solved the crystal structure of a potent antibody F10 in complex with the protein hemagglutinin H5, which the virus uses to infect cells. Binding of antibody F10 to hemagglutnin H5 disables a critical step in influenza virus infection. The site at which F10 binds the viral protein is common among many different types of flu viruses, which explains F10's broad spectrum of neutralization against many different types of flu viruses.

To learn more about this research, see the full scientific highlight.

SLAC Theorists Named
APS Outstanding Reviewers

(Photo - Michael Peskin, Helen Quinn and Thomas Rizzo)
Michael Peskin, Helen Quinn and Thomas Rizzo.

The American Physical Society has named SLAC theoretical physicists Michael Peskin, Helen Quinn and Thomas Rizzo Outstanding Referees for 2009. The award, announced March 23, honors scientists who have been especially helpful in reviewing manuscripts submitted to the three journals APS publishes—Physical Review, Physical Review Letters and Reviews of Modern Physics.

"The anonymous refereeing system is the best way we have of keeping a high-quality standard in our journals," Quinn said. "This is some recognition for people who review papers particularly well, to try to encourage others to make that effort."

The Outstanding Referee program began in 2008, when SLAC theoretical physicists Stanley Brodsky and Lance Dixon were honored, along with 532 other researchers. APS announces Outstanding Referees every year, but the award acknowledges long-term service: APS searches a database of 55,000 scientists who have refereed manuscripts for its journals since 1978. This year, Peskin, Quinn and Rizzo were among 340 whose contributions—reviews of exceptional quality, quantity and punctuality—stood out.

SLAC's High-Energy Physics Theory Group has ten permanent faculty and staff members, and five of them are now APS Outstanding Referees.

"Spending the time to write really good referee reports for other people's papers is an unheralded service," said Steven Kahn, Director of Particle Physics and Astrophysics at SLAC. "It really shows the dedication of these individuals to the field."

In addition to gratitude, Outstanding Referees get a certificate and a lapel pin. Quinn appreciates the honor, but her pin will probably gather dust in a drawer somewhere.

"I can't imagine a place where I would wear my lapel pin," she said. "I very seldom wear lapels."

Italy's Devastating Quake Jolts Gran Sasso Region

The area of central Italy struck by a magnitude 6.3 earthquake yesterday morning is home to Gran Sasso National Laboratory. The INFN particle physics lab is located in the heart of a mountain about half an hour’s drive from the hard-hit medieval city of L'Aquila.  Read more in Symmetry Breaking...

Additional information on the earthquake is provided in Physics Today.

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