Research Matters

Research Matters

Chemistry Center

Researchers are engineering new molecules with the potential to fight disease and advance human health. From the University of Kansas, this is Research Matters. I'm Brendan Lynch.

Aired September 21, 2008

2 minutes (2.7 MB) | Download mp3


It's the biggest research grant in the history of Kansas. The National Institutes of Health has awarded more than 20 million dollars to a team headed by Jeff Aubé, professor of medicinal chemistry at KU. Aubé says the award will establish a Specialized Chemistry Center at the university as part of a national effort called the Roadmap for Medical Re search.

Jeff Aubé: "The NIH is seeking to link up a lot of investigators throughout the country, and focus their effort on human heath problems that can't be solved by one lab. Chemists and biologists will be working together to develop ways of understanding basic human biology and figuring out how that understanding can be translated into real impacts on human heath."

In a method called High Throughput Screening, thousands of molecules will be tested for their potential to affect human biology. Then, the NIH will designate "hits," or molecules found to have promising effects, for more research at centers like the one at KU. Aubé compares the process to panning for gold.

Aubé: "It's as if you're prospecting for gold where you've got a little nugget of gold, but it's hidden in a bunch of sand. In the old days, guys would take a literal screen and they'd shake it around until all the bad stuff filtered away and you're left with a little gold nugget - and that would be a 'hit'."

Once hits are pinpointed, KU's Specialized Chemistry Center will produce chemical "probes," molecules based on hits that are engineered to be more efficient in their function.

Aubé: "A hit will typically be pretty good at what you want it to do. Our job is to make it great at what we want it to do. For the 'probe,' that's basically taking that gold nugget and turning into something really wonderful like a wedding ring."

For more about the Specialized Chemistry Center at KU, log onto research matters dot KU DOT EDU. For the University of Kansas, I'm Brendan Lynch.

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Specialized Chemistry Center

Thanks to a new six-year, $20.2 million research award from the National Institutes of Health, the University of Kansas is joining a high-level network of institutions in the search for molecules that can fight disease and advance human health. Read the full story