Newswise — Renowned chemical biologist Hening Lin, PhD, will join the University of Chicago later this summer, bolstering a growing roster of scientists who bridge the disciplines of chemistry, biology, and medicine to develop new treatments for disease.

Lin will serve a primary, tenured appointment with the Biological Sciences Division in the Department of Medicine, with a secondary appointment in the Department of Chemistry, beginning full time in July 2024. He joins UChicago from Cornell University, where he has been serving as a Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Biology.

Lin is recognized as a pioneer in chemistry, biology, and the therapeutic targeting of enzymes with important physiological functions. His work interfaces with organic synthesis, biochemistry, biophysics, molecular biology, and cell biology to study enzymes in order to develop small molecule inhibitors that target enzymes and investigate their potential in treating diseases such as cancer and inflammation.

“I'm very, very excited,” Lin said. “I like the fact that the medical school and the chemistry department are in close proximity to each other, and I am excited to collaborate with great people here.”

Many of Lin’s future colleagues are just as eager to work with him, including Chuan He, PhD, the John T. Wilson Distinguished Service Professor of Chemistry and Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.

“I am absolutely thrilled to have a world-leading chemical biologist joining our faculty,” He said. “Professor Jack Szostak's move from Harvard to UChicago a couple of years ago made us one of the world's best chemical biology programs. Now Hening adds the depth and breadth to an unprecedented level.”

Lin is also a Howard Hughes Medical Investigator, a unique and highly esteemed research position supported by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI). He will join He and Szostak, the University Professor of Chemistry, as one of three HHMI Investigators on the UChicago faculty.

Lin has pioneered the use of innovative chemical tools and chemical insights to study and manipulate protein function with a high degree of precision. His research has led to a deeper understanding of enzyme mechanisms, protein modifications, and cellular signaling pathways. Much of his work has focused on unraveling the complex world of protein post-translational modifications (PTMs), with his groundbreaking studies shedding light on the molecular mechanisms underlying PTMs and their impact on cellular processes.

Studying the regulation process of enzymes has helped researchers like Lin develop treatment for various kinds of human diseases. “A lot of people, especially chemists, when we learned about the enzymes, we learned that enzymes are very efficient,” he said. “But in biology, you want to be able to control when the enzyme is active. And if you can figure out how the enzymes are regulated, it can help you to understand the function of the enzyme to then develop treatment.”

Other future colleagues praise Lin’s advancements in enzymology and see the unique opportunity for further development and collaboration.

“Hening's group has reshaped how we think about chemical modifications to proteins,” said Bryan Dickinson, PhD, Professor of Chemistry. “At UChicago, Hening will be able to work with our clinical research faculty in BSD, where I am excited to see how he can leverage his program to continue to move his impactful basic science toward the clinic.”

Notably, Lin has been instrumental in fostering interdisciplinary collaborations between chemists, biologists, and clinicians. These collaborations have resulted in synergistic efforts to tackle complex scientific challenges and translate fundamental discoveries into practical applications for improving human health.

Overall, Lin believes that his impact at UChicago will be collaborative team research, stating that his primary goal is to get key players together to discover common problems and translational research.

“I think that way we can do better. I think clinical people and biologists could help the chemical biologists to better utilize their chemical tools and help the biologists and the clinicians to produce innovative solutions to problems,” he said.