DBB’s Prof. David Drew elected as new member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences

Professor David Drew from the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics has been elected as a foreign member of the Academy’s class for chemistry.

David Drew
David Drew. Photo: Anders Gagnerud

David Drew, Professor of Biochemistry at the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics at Stockholm University, runs a research program focused on how the human body absorbs nutrients and ions. Simple sugars, such as glucose and fructose, are an important source of fuel for our cells. For our cells to extract energy from sugar it must first be imported into them. In addition to sugar, the uptake of salt is important to regulate the volume of the cell and its internal pH. This research area is of great importance, because over half of the drugs used to treat medical conditions affect proteins found on the cell's membrane (surface).

Professor Drew represents a new generation of structural biologists applying cryo electron microscopy to study the technically challenging field of membrane proteins. Professor Drew’s cryo-EM research, carried out primarily at the Cryo-EM Swedish Infrastructure Unit at SciLifeLab, has revealed detail atomic models for the transport of both sugar and salt (sodium ions) in and out of the human cell. This transport takes place with the help of a type of transporter proteins, which work effectively to maintain an equilibrium inside the cell, also known as "homeostasis". When this balance is disrupted, for example by some types of cancer and diabetes, this can lead to various disease associated disorders. 

Learning more about how this membrane transport works can help lead to the development of new medicines in the future. For example, if it is possible to stop the sugar transporters doors opening this could potentially starve the cancer cells of the fuel they need to grow.

Professor David Drew recently published a review in Nature with Professor Olga Boudker from the Weill Cornell Medical School, where you can learn more about his research area and its outlook for the future.

Read the pressrelease from the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences (in Swedish) 

Read the review in Nature

Read more about the Cryo-EM Swedish Infrastructure Unit at SciLifeLab