Jeffrey Miner Helps Mentor Joshua Sanes Celebrate Gruber Award

Professor of Medicine Jeffrey Miner, Division of Nephrology, was proud to witness his Washington University postdoc mentor, Dr. Joshua R. Sanes, receive the 2017 Gruber Neuroscience Prize at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience 2017 (sfn17) in Washington DC, November 11-15. This award, funded by the Gruber Foundation at Yale University, honors scientists for major discoveries that have advanced the understanding of the nervous system.

Dr. Sanes is the Jeff C. Tarr Professor of Molecular and Cellular Biology and founding director of the Center for Brain Science at Harvard University, where he moved in 2004. He received the award, which includes a $500,000 prize, for his pioneering and inspiring work on synapse formation.

Dr. Sanes speaks at the Gruber Neuroscience award ceremony in November.

During the sfn17 meeting, Sanes used some of the prize money to host a reunion dinner and celebration at the Cosmos Club in Washington, DC, for 35 years worth of trainees. Approximately 60 former and current trainees attended, including Dr. Miner. “It was great to catch up with so many former Sanes lab trainees from the 1990s and early 2000s. So many are still in academia, but Pharma, non-profit foundation, and venture capital were represented, too.”

Sanes’ work on synapses began early in his career while pursuing his doctoral degree at Harvard and continued in his postdoctoral work at Harvard and the University of California in San Francisco. Moving on to a faculty position in the Department of Physiology at Washington University in 1980, Sanes investigated the molecular factors within the extracellular matrix that direct the formation of the neuromuscular junction.

Dr. Miner came to Washington University in 1992 to train with Sanes to become an expert in the neuromuscular synapse and how its formation and function are regulated by the components of the basement membrane between the motor nerve terminal and the muscle fiber.

“The laminin and collagen IV isoforms present in the synaptic basement membrane are also present in the kidney glomerular basement membrane,” say Miner. “Knockout mice lacking laminin ß2 or collagen α3(IV) that I was studying turned out to have kidney disease (a nephrotic syndrome later termed Pierson syndrome for LAMB2; Alport syndrome for COL4A3). That is how I became a kidney disease ‘expert’ in a neurobiology lab.”

According to Miner, in 1995, Sanes was asked to give a talk in Nephrology, but he had no desire to talk about kidney disease. “He suggested that I give the talk and that if I did a good job they would offer me a faculty position. That is exactly what happened, and is why I am in the Division today.”

Follow Dr. Jeffrey Miner on Twitter @JeffMinerPhD

A detailed biography of Dr. Joshua Sanes can be read here.