The Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) has granted a $200,000 High Impact/High Risk (HIHR) award to support research from Texas A&M University chemist Kevin Burgess. The investigator’s proposal, focused on studying the use of small molecules on cancer chemotherapy treatment, was among the 41 award winning projects selected to receive CPRIT grants.
Kevin Burgess, who is an organic chemist and the inaugural holder of the Rachal Chair in Chemistry since 2004, was awarded for a proposal entitled “Small Molecules to Perturb a Novel PPI Target for Chemotherapy.” The HHIHR award is meant to advance research projects with the potential to provide great new insights and knowledge on the prevention, diagnostic and treatment of cancer. This award was granted by CPRIT to 16 projects totalling almost $3.2 million.
Over the last 20 years Dr. Burgess’ research has been focused on improving the chemical efficiency of medical research and pharmacology, translating it into the industry. His projects have resulted in the design of a series of new compounds which are able to disrupt the interaction between proteins, altering not only cancer treatment but also diabetes and neurological conditions.
In this new project Dr. Burgess wants to use his research approaches to improve acute myeloid leukemia (AML) treatment, a severe type of blood cancer. Since the most typical treatment for AML is highly toxic, the researcher believes he can create more tolerable treatments that target cancer cells without damaging healthy ones. Dr. Burgess will study the unique drug candidate MLN4924 due to its potential to target the NAE protein and bind to the NEDD8 protein.
“Clinical data for MLN4924 is extremely promising, but cell studies indicate some forms of AML could be resistant. Consequently, it is highly desirable to explore compounds with the potential to prevent NAE interacting with NEDD8 in a different way, and that is the focus of the work CPRIT has decided to support. We are extremely grateful for this opportunity to explore this avenue of research,” explained Dr.Burgess, who had already been awarded with the 2013 Royal Society of Chemistry Prize.