Proteins are a building block of life, and better understanding of them could help the treatment of diseases.
To help a coalition of Kansas researchers tackle the complex issue of proteins, the National Institutes of Health has awarded a five-year, $10.1 million grant.
The researchers from Kansas University, KU Medical Center, Wichita State University and Kansas State University are all taking a look at how proteins affect cell operations.
The group - known as the Center of Biomedical Research Excellence in Protein Structure and Function - will use the grant to help strengthen its pool of researchers.
Robert Hanzlik, program director and KU professor of medicinal chemistry, said the study of proteins was so complex that it was necessary to have a large number of the best researchers working on the subject. Lawrence is the nucleus of the group.
The COBRE was created five years ago from another $10.1 million grant from the NIH. Hanzlik said the new grant should help solidify the coalition as a successful research entity.
The center helps introduce younger professors into large-scale research, Hanzlik said. So, many of the professors who began with the first grant are now mid-level researchers producing results independently.
The research specifically focuses on identifying and understanding the proteins within cells responsible for normal cell functions. The researchers also study cell dysfunction in diseases such as cancer.
Practically, researchers hope this could be translated into eventual "lock and key" treatments.
"The better you understand how a protein works in a disease, the better you can target drugs," Hanzlik said.
According to the National Center for Research Resources, which oversees the COBRE programs, the goal is to both strengthen an institution's biomedical research as well as enhance the ability of investigators to compete independently for individual research grants.
As researchers become individually funded, new investigators are brought in to fill their spots.