Drug-Resistance Researcher Wins NIH New Innovator Award

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A unique approach to understanding how cancer cells or microbes become capable of warding off drugs has earned a New Innovator Award from the National Institutes of Health for an M. D. Anderson scientist.

Gábor Balázsi, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Systems Biology, will receive $1.5 million over five years under the highly competitive program. The NIH announced awards Thursday in three prestigious programs that fund bold ideas, with the potential to speedily translate research into improved human health. 

"Therapy fails when cancer cells or disease-causing microbes become resistant to drugs. We will apply new, non-conventional methods to control expression of a drug-resistance gene in cells that are then treated with chemotherapy," Balázsi says. "We expect to discover new mechanisms underlying the emergence of drug resistance, which could improve treatment of cancer and of microbial infections as well."

Balázsi and colleagues are synthetic biologists who have created gene circuits that allow them to tightly control expression of a gene, dialing it from completely off through varying levels of expression to completely on.

A newly developed circuit also will permit them to control fluctuations in gene expression. This unique degree of control will allow more detailed investigation of the effects of genes involved in drug resistance.

"These are highly competitive awards for the most innovative science. Being chosen as a recipient is a significant accomplishment," says M. D. Anderson Provost and Executive Vice President Raymond DuBois, M.D., Ph.D.  "His research concept is exciting and holds promise for improving our ability to adjust very specific cellular levels of a variety of genes and then test drug resistance, among other things."

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M. D. Anderson Scientist Wins NIH New Innovator Award

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