A chemist at Texas A&M University was awarded one of 58 research grants granted by the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) to support scientists and companies advancing the fight against cancer. Jonathan Sczepanski was awarded the $2 million First-Time, Tenure-Track Faculty Member recruitment grant.
Sczepanski was among the three recipients of the grant, which is meant to support cancer scientists and emerging investigators working at Texas life science research institutions. Sczepanski came from the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, Calif., and is going to become an assistant professor at the Department of Chemistry of Texas A&M next August. The grant will be invested in the development of a research projects focused on both investigating cancer and chemical biology.
“Dr. Sczepanski’s research program will be highly complementary of ongoing efforts at Texas A&M, thereby catalyzing new campus-wide strengths in the chemical biology of cancer,” the professor and head of Texas A&M Chemistry, François P. Gabbaï, who holds the Arthur E. Martell Endowed Chair in Chemistry, stated in a press release.
With a doctorate in chemistry from Johns Hopkins University and a postdoctoral fellowship completed at the National Institutes of Health Kirschstein, Sczepanski studied both the reactivity of certain DNA lesions in naked DNA and nucleosome core particles, and vitro evolution in order to elaborate functional L-RNAs, such as L-RNA enzymes (ribozymes) and aptamers.
His most recent studies were focused on the development of novel L-RNA aptamers, called aptamiRs, which were designed to block the maturation of microRNA in vitro. At Texas A&M, Sczepanski will investigate the utilization of aptamiR technology in order to manipulate microRNAs in vivo, as well as novel cancer therapeutics based on L-RNA. The idea is combined with his lab expertise in nucleic acids chemistry and molecular biology, expecting it to enable the study of DNA repair and chromatin dynamics.
The College Station-based company Medicenna Therapeutics, Inc. was awarded with product development research grants to help support research on oncology products. In the case of Medicenna, the $14.1 million grant is going to be invested in the development of novel therapies for brain cancer in adults and children, such as glioblastoma multiforme (GBM).