Biochemist Laura Sanchez wins ASP Matt Suffness Young Investigator Award

Laura Sanchez
Laura Sanchez (photo by Carolyn Lagattuta)

Laura Sanchez, associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry at UC Santa Cruz, has been chosen by the American Society of Pharmacognosy (ASP) as the 2022 winner of the ASP Matt Suffness Young Investigator Award.

The award is given in recognition of the research contributions of early career natural product scientists engaged in multidisciplinary research. In particular, the ASP commended Sanchez for her development of “powerful tools... for biomedical research using natural products, and commitment to training the next generation of diverse scientists.”

Sanchez studies the chemistry by which cells and microbes communicate with one another or with their surroundings to coordinate biological functions in complex backgrounds. Her lab uses analytical mass spectrometry techniques, such as tandem mass spectrometry and imaging mass spectrometry, to probe and elucidate the molecules involved in communication between cells and microbes in a variety of biological models.

For example, Sanchez is studying the specialized metabolites involved in biofilm formation, which is a contributing factor to virulence and persistence of up to 80% of microbial infections in the human body. Other projects involve ovarian cancer and the microbial communities in cheese rind. Her lab’s research is very interdisciplinary and encompasses aspects of natural products discovery, mass spectrometry, microbiology, and host biology.

Sanchez earned her B.A. in chemistry at Whitman College and her Ph.D. in chemistry and biochemistry at UC Santa Cruz. She was an associate professor of pharmaceutical sciences at the University of Illinois Chicago before joining the UCSC faculty in 2021.

The Suffness Award will be presented to Sanchez at the 2022 ASP annual meeting to be held in July in Charleston, South Carolina, where she will give a featured award lecture.