The Alliance Awards the 2020 Gregory Paul Lenardo Basic Science Award to Scholar Shannon McKie

The Gregory Paul Lenardo Basic Science Award was graciously endowed by NIH OxCam Scholars Program co-founder, Dr. Michael Lenardo, in loving memory of his brother. First awarded in 2016, this annual award recognizes discoveries of fundamental cellular, molecular, or genetic processes using model systems that advance scientific understanding of biological processes in higher organisms. This year at the virtual Annual Research Workshop, the recipient of the Gregory Paul Lenardo Basic Science Award was NIH-John Innes Centre/WT Scholar Shannon McKie. Shannon is mentored by Prof. Tony Maxwell at the John Innes Centre and Dr. Keir Neuman of the NIH’s National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI). 

Shannon characterized DNA topoisomerase VI (topo VI), a recently-discovered topoisomerase of archaeal origin that has vital, largely-unknown roles in plants and plasmodial parasites.  She purified topo VI and revealed new aspects of this enzyme through biochemical experiments.  Shannon mastered single-molecule approaches, applying them for the first time to study topo VI.  Her discovery elucidated the mechanism underpinning, that topo VI is a preferential decatenase, supporting its proposed role in endoreduplication in plants and suggesting possible functions in plasmodial parasites.  Shannon also developed a novel method for mapping/sequencing topoisomerase cleavage sites, and how they are altered by DNA topology and clinically-important topoisomerase inhibitors. 

“When I heard my name announced at the 2020 Workshop Awards Ceremony, I was in shock. Seeing my doctoral work recognized by not only my supervisors, but also by one of the founders of the NIH OxCam Scholars Program, Dr. Lenardo, was incredible. My statuette has already been placed in a special location, and I’m very proud to have been a part of this excellent PhD scholarship program. I am grateful for my mentors, friends, and family who have supported me through this journey and am honored to be named the Gregory Paul Lenardo Basic Science Award recipient of 2020,” stated Shannon.

Having just passed her viva (August 13th 2020), Shannon is currently involved in a short-term postdoc project characterizing protein that interact with DNA gyrase from Mycobacterium tuberculosis, such Mfpa and MurI. Her hope is to progress to long-term molecular biology postdoc where she will continue to refine her skills and knowledge in the characterization of proteins, hopefully ones of eukaryotic origin.