O'Donnell Award in Biological Sciences Recipients Header

About the Edith and Peter O’Donnell Award in Biological Sciences

The Edith and Peter O’Donnell Awards were established in 2006. They are named in honor of Edith and Peter O’Donnell, who were among Texas’ most devoted advocates for excellence in scientific advancement and STEM education. The awards recognize rising star Texas researchers who are addressing the essential role that science and technology play in society and whose work meets the highest standards of exemplary professional performance, creativity and resourcefulness.

The Edith and Peter O’Donnell Award in Biological Sciences honors Texas researchers at academic institutions in biological and life sciences with a $25,000 honorarium, profile video and an invitation to present their research at the TAMEST Annual Conference.

Thanks to a $1.15 million gift from the O’Donnell Foundation in 2022, the O’Donnell Awards were expanded to include an additional science award so that awards could be given each year in both Biological and Physical Sciences categories. Previously, the science award alternated between biological sciences and physical sciences annually.

Most Recent Biological Sciences Recipient

2024 O'Donnell Award Biological Sciences Recipient Vincent Tagliabracci

Vincent Tagliabracci, Ph.D., UT Southwestern Medical Center, is the 2024 recipient of the Edith and Peter O’Donnell Award in Biological Sciences. He was chosen for his potentially life-saving research in understanding how enzymes work.

Dr. Tagliabracci and his team at UT Southwestern Medical Center have shined a new light on an array of physiological processes that rely on enzymes called protein kinases (PKs) and their biological cousins called “pseudokinases.” His research revealed how the virus that causes COVID-19 builds a structure called an RNA cap that’s critical for viral replication. The hope is that this discovery could lead to new strategies to attack COVID-19, which has sickened nearly 700 million and killed almost 7 million worldwide thus far.

Scientists have studied protein kinases for decades because they play critical roles in many physiological and pathological processes. Dr. Tagliabracci and his research team unabashedly study what they term “weird enzymes.” Their work on pseudokinases has disrupted the textbook view of PKs and discovered new catalytic activities performed by these enzymes.

Learn More about Dr. Tagliabracci and His Work >
Watch Dr. Tagliabracci’s Award Acceptance >

Past Biological Sciences Recipients

James J. Collins III, Ph.D., UT Southwestern Medical Center | 2023
For widening the understanding of schistosomiasis, a disease caused by parasitic worms that infect hundreds of millions of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people, including children.
Learn More >

Benjamin Tu, Ph.D., UT Southwestern Medical Center | 2021
For his pioneering research on cellular roles of small molecule metabolites that may have relevance for cancer treatments and other diseases.
Learn More >

Julie Pfeiffer, Ph.D., UT Southwestern Medical Center | 2019
For re-defining how we think about life-threatening viral infections. She has discovered new ways that bacteria in the body can affect whether or not we get sick from viruses.
Learn More >
Watch Dr. Pfeiffer’s Award Acceptance >

Daniel I. Bolnick, Ph.D., The University of Texas at Austin | 2017
For his understanding on how some fish are resistant to parasites. With this understanding we can achieve a better understanding of our own immune systems, which could lead to better treatments for everything from allergies to Crohn’s Disease.
Learn More >
Watch Dr. Bolnick’s Award Acceptance >

Yuh Min Chook, Ph.D., UT Southwestern Medical Center | 2015
For work that explained the mechanism of ALS-disease mutations, permitted the design and revealed mechanisms of new anti-cancer drugs.
Learn More >
Watch Dr. Chook’s Award Acceptance >

Youxing Jiang, Ph.D., UT Southwestern Medical Center | 2013
For the elucidation of the atomic structures of membrane-bound ion channels.
Learn More >
Watch Dr. Jiang’s Award Acceptance >

Kim Orth, Ph.D. (NAS), UT Southwestern Medical Center | 2011
For the discovery of new intracellular signaling mechanisms and post-translational protein modifications usurped by bacterial pathogens and used during infection of mammalian cells.
National Academy of Sciences: 2020
Learn More >

Rama Ranganathan, Ph.D., UT Southwestern Medical Center | 2009
For developing an approach for understanding the evolutionary design of protein structure and function.
Learn More >

Zhijian “James” Chen, Ph.D. (NAM, NAS), UT Southwestern Medical Center | 2007
For his discovery of the novel role of ubiquitin in regulating protein kinases and other biological activities, and the discovery of a new role of mitochondria in immune responses.
National Academy of Sciences: 2014
National Academy of Medicine: 2022
Learn More >


TAMEST News and Updates

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.