2021 Norman Hackerman Award In Chemical Research Recipient

Dr. Ilya J. Finkelstein

The University of Texas at Austin

An Associate Professor in the Molecular Biosciences Department at The University of Texas at Austin, Dr. Finkelstein is well regarded for his innovative methods to understand how cells repair their DNA and maintain integrity of genetic information. Dr. Finkelstein and his team have merged next-generation DNA sequencing with molecular biophysics to characterize and improve emerging gene-editing tools, known as RNA-guided CRISPR-Cas enzymes. By unraveling their molecular functions, he hopes to improve the efficacy and safety of gene editing. 

Most recently,  Dr. Finkelstein shifted his team’s focus and developed a critical reagent for SARS-CoV-2 vaccine development. His group, in collaboration with two other University of Texas labs, worked tirelessly to optimize the production of the viral spike protein, a critical component of some COVID-19 vaccine formulations. Dr. Finkelstein is also on a team of UT faculty who have been working with clinicians in Houston to understand how COVID-19 is mutating by reviewing blood plasma of 5,000 patients.

The Hackerman Award provides Dr. Finkelstein with a personal award of $100,000.