Aviv Paz Ph.D.

Aviv Paz

Aviv Paz

Professional Summary:

My laboratory studies the structure, function, and the relationship between structure and function in membrane transport proteins. Transporters undergo isomerization, transitioning between distinct conformations to ferry cargo across lipidic membranes. We are especially interested in deciphering the forces that energize transport, the determinants of ligand selection (given the spectrum from high specificity to multispecificity among transporters), and deciphering the structural dynamics governing conformational changes in transporters.
To probe these captivating facets of transport, we harness a diverse array of structural biology techniques, including X-ray crystallography, cryogenic electron microscopy (cryo-EM), and X-ray scattering. Complementing these methods, we employ a suite of biochemical and biophysical assays to characterize purified proteins, whether solubilized in detergents or reconstituted in lipids. Additionally, we conduct various cellular assays and collaborate closely with computational scientists proficient in molecular dynamics simulations and other computational methodologies to enrich our experimental insights.
Our main focus is the Organic Anion Transporting Polypeptide superfamily, which plays pivotal roles in numerous physiological processes, encompassing drug disposition, potential life-threatening drug-drug interactions, and the management and progression of specific cancers.
Furthermore, the field of cryo-EM has witnessed substantial advancements in recent years, yet challenges persist, particularly concerning sample stability and dispersion on cryo-EM grids. To address these hurdles, we are developing novel tools for sample handling and freezing. Our aim is to minimize the occurrence of denatured particles on grids and mitigate issues such as preferred particle orientations, thereby enhancing the efficacy and reliability of cryo-EM analyses.

Education and Training:

  • PhD, Structural Biology, Weizmann Institute of Science (2009)
  • MS, Biophysics, Bar-Ilan University, Cum Laude (2003)
  • BS, Medical Sciences, Tel-Aviv University (1999)


  • Research Assistant Professor, Structural Biology, UB, Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences (2024-present)
  • Assistant Investigator, Hauptman-Woodward Medical Research Institute (2022-present)
  • Adjunct Associate Professor of Oncology, Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center (2018-present)
  • Associate Research Scientist, Hauptman-Woodward Medical Research Institute (2018–2022)
  • Project Scientist, Physiology, David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California Los-Angeles (2014–2018)

Awards and Honors:

  • Seymore H. Knox Foundation Research Award (2021)
  • The Joseph and Anna Gartner Foundation Research Award (2021)
  • The Sonnenschein Fund Postdoctoral Award (2012)

Research Expertise:

  • “Classical” structural biology: We routinely employ X-ray crystallography (using the excellent facilities at the HWI), cryogenic electron microscopy (in HWI and with other collaborators), protein modeling, and ligand docking to solve structures of membrane and soluble protein targets.
  • Biochemical/biophysical characterization: We perform numerous assays locally and at synchrotron facilities to tease out various biochemical and biophysical aspects important for the functions of our targets.
  • Cellular assays: We employ various functional assays such as uptakes of fluorescent ligands, cell-surface abundance, etc., to characterize the proteins in cells overexpressing our targets. Findings are compared to results of detergent solubilized proteins and reconstituted systems (that only contain our protein of interest) to gain insight into the influence of other cellular components on our targets.
  • Heterologous protein overexpression: My lab uses bacterial, yeast, and cell lines for the overexpression of our targets.
  • Membrane proteins: Due to the hydrophobic nature of membrane proteins special handling using detergents is required for the solubilization, purification, and characterization of these proteins. Furthermore, to biochemically/biophysically study these purified proteins in lipidic environments (which are much closer to the native environment than detergents) reconstitution of detergent-solubilized proteins in lipidic environments such as proteoliposomes, nanodiscs, bicelles, etc., are routinely performed in the lab.
  • Method development: My research style is very receptive for improving existing methods and developing new ideas related to structural biology and protein purification.
  • Protein purification: We utilize multiple affinity systems, ion-exchange, and size-exclusion chromatography utilizing gravity and FPLC systems.

Journal Articles:

See all (12 more)

Professional Memberships:

  • Protein Society (2022–present)
  • American Crystallographic Association (2019–present)
  • American Association for the Advancement of Science (2012–2014)


  • "Exploratory Studies of Two Transporter Families; Towards Structural Determination" Protein Science Group Seminar Series (2020)
  • "Structural Studies of The Equilibrative Nucleoside Transporter Family" IMCA-CAT board meeting, Advanced Photon Sources (2020)
  • "Functional basis of conformational transitions in the sodium dependent sugar transporter vSGLT" Biochemistry Department Seminar University at Buffalo (2019)
  • "Deciphering Ligand Induced Conformational Changes in Two Families of Sodium Dependent Sugar Transporters" ILANIT/FISEB conference (2017)
  • "Double Electron-Electron Resonance Studies of vSGLT Under Different Ligand Conditions" Transporter Interest Group meeting, University of California San Francisco (2015)
  • "Structural Exploration of the Voltage Dependent Anion Channel" Physiology Department Seminar, University of California Los-Angeles (2014)
  • "Structural Studies on Cholinesterase-like Adhesion Molecules" Neurobiology Department Symposium, Weizmann Institute of Science (2007)
  • "Are Intrinsically Unfolded Proteins Really Unstructured?" Structural Biology Symposium, Weizmann Institute of Science (2005)

Service Activities:

  • Terra Western New York STEM and Education Fair; Judge (2024)
  • Frontiers in Molecular Biosciences; Review Editor (2023–present)
  • HWI Scientific Governance Council; Member (2023–present)
  • HWI Faculty Search Committee; Chair (2023–2024)
  • G. Harold and Leila Y. Mathers Charitable Foundation; Review Board Member (2023–present)
  • Eukaryotic Cell Anatomy and Transport, Unit 1: Genomes, Graduate Course, Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center; Lecturer (2022–present)
  • HWI Safety Committee; Member (2022–present)
  • Journal of Molecular Biology; Reviewer (2021–present)
  • Proteins Structure Function & Bioinformatics; Reviewer (2021–present)
  • HWI Scientific Governance Council; Secretary (2020–2023)
  • HWI/IMCA-CAT Seminar Series Committee; Chair (2020–present)
  • HWI Structural Biology Workshop; Lecturer (2018)
  • Protein Purification and Characterization Course, Weizmann Institute of Science; Lecturer and Laboratory Instructor (2018–2020)
  • Structure; Reviewer (2017–present)
  • Foundations of Medicine Block I, David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California Los-Angeles; Problem Based Learning Instructor (2016–2017)
  • EMBO Reports; Reviewer (2016–present)
  • Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences; Reviewer (2016–present)
  • International Union of Crystallography Journal; Reviewer (2016–present)
  • Laboratory Instructor; Foundations of Medicine Block II, David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California Los-Angeles (2014–2015)
  • Membrane Protein Crystallization Workshop, InStem Bangalore India; Lecturer, Laboratory Coordinator and Instructor (2013)
  • New Strategies for Cloning and Expression of Protein Complexes in E. coli and Insect Cells, Spine2 Complexes Workshop; Laboratory Instructor (2009)
  • 3D visualization theater and young@science, Weizmann Institute of Science; Lecturer (2005–2009)

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Contact Information

5102 JSMBS

Phone: (716) 829-5424