Drs. Kevin Dalby and Maria Person have received grants from the Cancer Prevention Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) for research to further understand cancer biology and develop new cancer treatments.
Dalby, associate professor of medicinal chemistry, was awarded $2.4 million to support work at the university's Texas Institute for Drug and Diagnostic Development (TI-3D) as part of a $12.6 million award to the Gulf Coast Consortia CPRIT Throughput Screening Program, of which Dalby is co-director.
The consortia will provide the researchers with access to resources, such as robotic machines and chemical library screening, normally only available to scientists working in large pharmaceutical companies.
The Dalby laboratory focuses on understanding the roles of protein kinases in cancer. Protein kinases are a class of enzyme that regulate cellular signaling and are considered to be the major drug target of the 21st century. Dalby develops novel compounds that inhibit the activity of protein kinases, which potentially can be utilized therapeutically, as well as to further understand basic mechanisms of cancer.
"Our ultimate goal is to provide realistic pathways to new drugs," Dalby said. "Our work in Austin will utilize our strengths here at the university in medicinal chemistry, biochemistry and chemo-informatics."
Person, director of the Protein and Metabolite Analysis Facility at the Institute for Cellular and Molecular Biology and the College of Pharmacy, received $1.3 million to purchase state-of-the-art mass spectrometry equipment. Person's work involves collaborating with researchers at the university and the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center to understand cancer at the molecular level, in animal models and through human population studies.
"The goal is to improve detection and treatment for ovarian cancer, breast cancer, leukemias and lymphomas and pancreatic cancer," said Person.
The equipment will be used to observe molecular details from the earliest stages of DNA damage, through cell proliferation, invasion and metastasis, and to provide detailed characterization of interactions of drugs with DNA and proteins.
"Dr. Dalby's cancer drug development grant will greatly enhance drug discovery efforts at the university," said Dean Lynn Crismon. "One of our goals is for a University of Texas at Austin faculty member to synthesize a compound that will eventually become a cure for cancer.
"We have a commitment to cancer drug development from the research laboratory bench to the bedside."
Person's equipment grant "will significantly augment the capabilities in our protein and metabolic analysis facility," said Crismon. " This not only is useful in basic drug discovery, but in preclinical drug development as well. Thus, both of these grants represent advances in our ability to conduct cutting edge cancer research at the university."
In 2007, Texas voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment establishing the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) and dedicating up to $3 billion to invest in groundbreaking cancer research and prevention programs and services in Texas. CPRIT focuses on expediting the innovation and commercialization of cancer research – in turn increasing the potential for a medical or scientific breakthrough – and enhancing access to evidence-based prevention programs and services. For more information, visit www.cprit.state.tx.us.