Susan Lindquist, the former director of the Whitehead Institute, has died, according to the institute. She was 67.
Lindquist was known for her work on proteins, especially prions, and their role in disease. As the New York Times notes, Lindquist's research found that protein-folding errors occur in most species and that these changes can be passed along to subsequent generations, bypassing DNA and RNA. She has applied this work to studies of diseases like Parkinson's disease, the Times adds. In a 2006 paper, her lab described introducing a Parkinson's disease gene into yeast and then screened the yeast for a gene that encoded a protein that rescued the cell.
"I do a lot of what you would call high-risk, high-payoff research," Lindquist told an audience at Angelo State University in Texas in 2002, according to the Times. "Some of my projects don't work, but when they do work, they are pretty fabulous."
Lindquist received the National Medal of Science from President Obama in 2010, led the Whitehead from 2001 until 2004, and was elected to American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Sciences in 1997.
"Even people in my laboratory thought we were crazy to try to study neurodegenerative diseases with a yeast cell," she told the Times in 2007. "It's not a neuron. But I thought we might be looking at a very general problem in the way proteins were being managed in a cell. And yeasts are easy to study because they are such simple cells."