Baylor College of Medicine receives federal nanomedicine grant
One of four federal Nanomedicine Development Centers awards has gone to the Center for Protein Folding Machinery, led by Dr. Wah Chiu, a professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at Baylor College of Medicine.
The four advanced centers in nanomedicine are part of the National Institutes of Health's New Pathways to Discovery. They will share approximately $42 million over five years. Other centers include: The National Center for Design of Biomimetic Nanoconductors at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign; Engineering Cellular Control: Synthetic Signaling and Motility Systems at the University of California, San Francisco; and the NanoMedicine Center for Mechanical Biology at Columbia University in New York. Chiu's award comes from the National Eye Institute.
"These Nanomedicine Development Centers will gather extensive information on the intricate operations of molecular structures, processes, and networks used by living cells," said NEI Director Dr. Paul Sieving. "This will help us understand the rules of biological design and will enable researchers to build synthetic biological tools at the nano scale to correct defects in unhealthy cells. Ultimately, we anticipate that these tools will find application for a wide range of tissues and diseases.".
The award enables Chiu and colleagues, including co-director Dr. Judith Frydman, associate professor of biology at Stanford University, to study the mechanism that changes proteins from a linear, non-functional form to functional three-dimensional shapes. Understanding this fundamental biological process can provide clues to treating diseases ranging from Alzheimer's to cancer to cystic fibrosis. A number of of these diseases stem from misfolded proteins.
In particular, Chiu and colleagues seek to understand how molecular chaperones work to shepherd the proteins through the intricate folding process. Once they understand the physical and engineering principles of how proteins are folded correctly, they can determine how the process goes wrong. With that information in hand, they and others in the field will be able to engineer a new chaperone to correct the mistakes.
Understanding this process will require the cooperation of a host of people from different disciplines including physics, chemistry, computation and engineering.
"That is why I have formed a team of 13 established investigators from different disciplines," Chiu said.
The center, based at BCM, began with a grant from the National Institutes of Health's Roadmap Initiative designed to encourage biomedical investigators to take on challenging problems and solve them with unusual engineering approaches.
"The Nanomedicine Development Center award enables the project to proceed," Chiu said.
Others involved in the Center include: Drs. Steven Chu, director, and Paul Adams, staff researcher, Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory; Scott L. Delp, associate professor of bioengineering, Dr. W.E. Moerner, professor of chemistry, Vijay Pande, associate professor of chemistry, and Michael Levitt, professor of structural biology, Stanford University; David Gossard, professor of mechanical engineering, and Jonathan King, professor of biology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Eric Jonasch, assistant professor of oncology, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center; Tanja Kortemme, assistant professor of pharmaceutical chemistry, and Andrei Sali, professor of pharmaceutical chemistry, the University of California, San Francisco and Steven Ludtke, assistant professor of biochemistry and molecular biology, and Huda Y. Zoghbi, professor of molecular and human genetics and pediatrics, BCM.