Ying Ge, PhD, professor of cell and regenerative biology, has been awarded the Biemann Medal from the American Society for Mass Spectrometry for 2020. She was also named to the Top 100 Analytical Scientist Power List by The Analytical Scientist.

The Biemann Medal is given annually to acknowledge substantial achievements in the early stages of a career in basic or applied mass spectrometry, while the Top 100 Analytical Scientist list showcases talent and leadership in analytical science globally.

Ying Ge
Ying Ge

“It is great to know that my work is recognized by the community and appreciated,” said Ge who directs the Human Proteomics Program at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. “It signifies an increase in visibility of our research on the international stage.”

Ge’s laboratory studies how cardiovascular diseases affect the modifications of proteins that function as signaling pathways in the body. Using mass spectrometry — a technique that allows identification of specific proteins — Ge’s team measures disease-associated protein modifications in samples such as heart tissue. Systematically analyzing proteins and determining their localization, modifications, and functions allows her to better understand pathology enabled by the cutting-edge mass spectrometry-based proteomics technology.

Ge hopes her research will accomplish three goals: allow for earlier detection of diseases such as heart failure and cancer, improve treatment methods to achieve personalized medicine and, ultimately, to prevent cardiovascular disease.

“I believe the integration of chemistry, biology and medicine will help us develop the best strategy for precision medicine, wherein disease treatment and prevention take individual variability into account, is increasingly recognized as the future of modern health care. In order to achieve precision medicine, it is critical to have an interdisciplinary effort. Fortunately our lab is located in the highly interdisciplinary Wisconsin Institutes of Medical Research (WIMR) 8th floor cardiovascular center, adjacent to the labs of many cardiovascular investigators such as Drs. Moss, Kamp, Valdivia, Ralphe, Eckhardt, and Masters among others. Such an interdisciplinary environment stimulates collaborations and cultivates new systems biology approaches for precision medicine,” she said.

A gift exchange
Members of the Ge lab gather for a 2020 New Year’s celebration.

Ge said seeing patients, family and loved ones suffering as a result of disease serves as her motivation. She was particularly affected by the passing of her colleague and friend, Patti Keely, former chair of the Department of Cell and Regenerative Biology.

“It was so painful to see her suffering; we lost such a great scientist and kind human being,” Ge said, adding that the lack of information available to patients when making crucial decisions about their health is unbearable.

“Patti was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer and so, for her, time was imminent. She had a few choices of treatment options, but she didn’t know which would work for her, and her doctor also didn’t have all the answers based on the limited information obtained from genetic tests and other conventional diagnostic tools,” Ge said. “I remember that Patti mentioned to me several times that she really wished to obtain the information at the proteome level, which can more closely reflect the disease phenotypes. It was a life and death decision and she had to make it without all the information. So, what motivates me is to find this important information and decode the proteome for personalized medicine.”

By the end of her career, Ge said she hopes to have created a human “Google Map” that allows an individual patient to have a comprehensive understanding of their proteome. At each annual exam their protein network could be remapped and compared to the those obtained from the previous year, allowing doctors to detect changes and not only identify disease at an early stage, but aid in preventing illness altogether.

By Josie Zindler, communications intern, as part of a series focusing on members of the school who received national awards during the 2019-20 academic year.