Daily Archives: June 20, 2011

NIH Awards $200M for New CTSA Sites

Captured by GenomeWeb

The National Institutes of Health said today that it has awarded nearly $200 million to be spread over five years to five new Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSA) winners including Pennsylvania State University; the University of California, Los Angeles; University of Kansas Medical Center; the University of Kentucky; and the University of Minnesota.

The CTSA program, which is run by the National Center for Research Resources, funds research and resources that boost the efficacy and quality of clinical and translational research.

“The CTSAs support the innovation and partnerships necessary to bridge the traditional divides between basic research and medical practice,” NIH Director Francis Collins said in a statement Tuesday. “The combination of resources and collaboration made possible by these awards is essential for developing and delivering new treatments and prevention strategies.”

UCLA said yesterday that it will use its $81.3 million grant to work with other partners, including Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, the Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science, and the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute. The school also said that concurrent with the grant it plans to open a new 23,000 square-foot UCLA Clinical and Translational Research Center for outpatient research studies, which will include a biomarkers research lab.

The UCLA-led partners already host a range of research resources, including a genomics core at Cedars-Sinai as well as molecular and micro-imaging and biostatistics and lab services cores, among others.

The University of Minnesota plans to use its $51 million grant to “exponentially expand our capacity and push new discoveries forward faster,” Bruce Blazar, leader of the CTSA program at U of M, said in a statement. “Ultimately, this award is about three things: working with our community to identify research needs, capitalizing on the most promising research, and putting findings into practice to improve the health of our patients and communities.” Read more…

Supercomputers Help Ohio State Researchers Identify Cancer Drug Targets

Captured by Genome Technology (GenomeWeb)

Researchers at Ohio State University are using the power of supercomputing to find the best molecular configuration to block proteins responsible for breast and prostate cancers. OSU Assistant Professor Chenglong Li and his graduate student Vandana Kumari are using the Ohio Supercomputer Center’s high-performance computing resources to search through thousands of possible molecular combinations that could block interleukin-6, which is often overproduced in individuals with cancer.

In 2002, a team of Japanese researchers found that a non-toxic molecule called madindoline A, or MDL-A, could be used to suppress the IL-6 signal. Following up on this research, Li is using a screening program and an OSC compute cluster to sift through more than 6,000 drug fragments to construct an MDL-A derivative that would dock with one of five “hot spots” on the IL-6 protein. So far, Li and his colleagues have identified two possible solutions by combining parts of the MDL-A molecule with sections of a benzyl or pyrazole molecule.

To define the interactions between IL-6 and two additional helper proteins, Li needed a powerful computational resource to run his simulations; he used molecular modeling software packages like AMBER and AutoDock. “Super-computing is needed at various stages for this drug design project [because] molecular dynamics simulations are required to pinpoint the feasible hot spots among the protein binding interfaces with ensuing free energy calculations,” Li says. “Massive numbers of fragment combinations need to be simulated and lead optimizations require detailed free energy simulations, so parallel runs at OSC Glenn cluster have been greatly facilitating the discovery process.”

Ultimately, Li hopes that this approach could change how research for both cancer treatment and prevention is done. “Regarding treatment, targeting the tumor microenvironment, and inhibiting tumor stem cell renewal might lead to a novel way to overcome breast and prostate cancer drug resistance and stop metastasis and recurrence,” he says. “As far as cancer prevention is concerned, breaking the link between chronic inflammation and cancer may offer a new strategy.” Read more…