McLellan Wins Major Awards from Welch Foundation, National Academy

January 23, 2023 • by Marc Airhart

Jason McLellan receives the NAS Award in Molecular Biology and the Norman Hackerman Award from the Welch Foundation.

Portrait of a man in a white lab coat and glasses

Jason McLellan. Credit: Vivian Abagiu.

Jason McLellan, a structural biologist at The University of Texas at Austin, is being honored today with the announcement of two highly prestigious awards—the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) Award in Molecular Biology and the Norman Hackerman Award in Chemical Research from the Welch Foundation.

McLellan is the Welch Chair in Chemistry and a professor in the Department of Molecular Biosciences. As a pioneer in the emerging field of structure-based vaccine design, he played a key role in the development of several FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccines, as well as in experimental vaccines for respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) that are showing promise in late-stage clinical trials.

The Norman Hackerman Award in Chemical Research was established by The Welch Foundation to honor Norman Hackerman, its Scientific Advisory Board chair from 1982 to 2006. The award recognizes the accomplishments of chemical scientists in Texas who are early in their careers. It is designed to encourage scientists embarking on careers dedicated to increasing our fundamental understanding of chemistry. Upon accepting the award, McLellan will receive $100,000, as well as a bronze sculpture to commemorate the occasion. The Welch Foundation is one of the nation's largest sources of private funding for basic chemistry research.

"Every American that has been vaccinated against COVID-19 has directly benefitted from Jason McLellan's work," said Catherine J. Murphy, chair of the Welch Foundation Scientific Advisory Board. "His innovative research makes him an ideal recipient of the Hackerman Award."

"It is an honor to join the extraordinary list of fellow scientists who have previously received the Hackerman Award," added McLellan. "I look forward to continuing my efforts in biochemical vaccine design and working toward future vaccine development."

The NAS Award in Molecular Biology recognizes a recent notable discovery by a young scientist who is a citizen of the United States. McLellan is being honored for "pioneering work in the molecular and structural biology of viral surface proteins." The award, which is supported by Pfizer Inc., is presented with a medal and a $25,000 prize.

McLellan is one of 16 individuals being recognized with 2023 NAS awards and nine in the life sciences. The list of recipients this year also includes UT Austin's Nancy Moran, a professor in the Department of Integrative Biology who is receiving the Selman A. Waksman Award in recognition of pioneering research in microbiology. The winners will be honored in a ceremony during the National Academy's 160th annual meeting on April 30th.

Among McLellan's other awards and honors are recognition as Young Investigator in Virology, receiving the O'Donnell Award in Medicine for 2022 from TAMEST, being named an outstanding alumnus at Wayne State University and the inaugural McGuire Family Prize for Societal Impact recipient at Dartmouth and being selected as the Texas Inventor of the Year in 2021. He also has previously received recognition from the Charles H. Hood Foundation, American Crystallographic Association, Blavatnik Family Foundation, AAAS and the International Society for Antiviral Research. McLellan is an associate editor of the journal Science Advances and the director of the Interdisciplinary Life Sciences graduate programs at UT Austin.

This post was adapted from releases from the Welch Foundation and NAS.