IGB Awarded $1.8 million NIH Grant

09.28.05 – The National Cancer Institute (NCI) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded three IGB researchers $1.8 million to pursue cancer research.  The interdisciplinary team includes Richard Lathrop and Pierre Baldi of the Department of Computer Science and Rainer Brachmann of the Division of Hematology/Oncology, Department of Medicine.  The IGB-seeded project applies machine learning to the central tumor-suppressor protein known as “p53.”  The ultimate goal of the project is to identify new anti-cancer drugs.

Institute for Genomics and Bioinformatics fosters research in genomics, proteomics and
computational biology.

Lathrop, Baldi and Brachmann represent a computationally focused team within a large collaborative group of UCI researchers studying p53, p53 mutants and their functional rescue.  Fostered by Dr. Brachmann, the interdisciplinary effort includes four schools and nine laboratories.  Brachmann observed that making changes to specific amino acids of a damaged, cancer-causing p53 protein often restores normal function.

The new grant, part of the NIH “Innovations in Biomedical Computational Science and Technology” (BISTI) program, will allow the computational team to pursue machine learning and experimental investigations on p53 activities. The research team expects to be better able to predict how function can be restored to damaged p53 protein, found in close to half of all human cancers.   This information will be key to the development of anti-cancer drugs to treat human cancers with p53 mutations, known to be particularly resistant to current treatment options.

The National Cancer Institute has recognized UCI as a center of outstanding cancer research, clinical studies and treatment solutions.   Innovative researchers such as Brachmann have been attracted to and contribute to these strengths.  Lathrop, the lead investigator, and Baldi are experts in artificial intelligence, advanced computation, and their application to molecular biology.  IGB’s pioneering interdisciplinary training programs, also supported by NIH, synergize with these research strengths by attracting first class graduate and post-doctoral trainees to UCI.

About The Institute for Genomics and Bioinformatics: Founded in 2001, the Institute is dedicated to promoting innovation at the intersection of the life and computational sciences. This includes the creation of electronic databases and computer modeling of biological systems such as genomes and protein sequences. To learn more about the Institute, please visit www.igb.uci.edu.

Susan J. Knight, sknight@uci.edu, (949) 824-5927