Eight Alabama Researchers Receive NASA Biotechnology Grants

December 17, 1998

NASA has selected 48 researchers -- eight of whom are from Huntsville and Birmingham -- to receive grants totaling approximately $33 million to conduct biotechnology research that may lead to new medical technologies.

As part of NASA's Biotechnology Program, the 48 grant recipients will study protein crystallization and cell science. This research, managed by the Microgravity Research Program at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., may result in improvements in structure-based drug design, tissue engineering and biosensor development.

NASA's biotechnology research has contributed information to the understanding of many diseases, including AIDS, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, respiratory syncytial virus and hepatitis. NASA's cell growth experiments have led to new research models in cellular and molecular biology and new tissues for transplant operations.

During NASA's selection process, 165 research proposals were peer-reviewed by scientific and technical experts from academia, government and industry. Forty of the grants are to conduct ground-based research, while the remaining eight will work to refine and fly experiments in space aboard the International Space Station. Currently being assembled in orbit by Space Shuttle crews, the Space Station will be an orbiting laboratory built, worked and lived on by 15 cooperating nations. The orbiting laboratory is scheduled to be completed by mid-2002. Microgravity experiments are scheduled to begin by mid-1999.

Thirty-four of NASA's 48 Biotechnology grants are for new research efforts. The remaining 14 grants are for continuation of work currently being funded by NASA.

The recipients from Alabama include:

* Dr. Daniel C. Carter, New Century Pharmaceuticals Inc., Huntsville
"Protein Crystal Growth Facility-Based Microgravity Hardware: Science and Applications"

* Dr. Lawrence J. DeLucas, University of Alabama at Birmingham
"Microgravity Studies of Medically Relevant Macromolecules"

* Dr. Russell Judge, NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville
"Macromolecule Nucleation and Growth Rate Dispersion Studies: A Predictive Technique for Crystal Quality Improvement in Microgravity"

* Dr. Craig E. Kundrot, NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville
"Optimizing the Use of Microgravity to Improve the Diffraction Quality of Problematic Biomacromolecular Crystals"

* Dr. Robert J. Naumann, University of Alabama in Huntsville
"Control of Transport in Protein Crystal Growth using Restrictive Geometries"

* Dr. Marc L. Pusey, NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville
"The Role of Specific Interactions in Protein Crystal Nucleation and Growth Studied by Site-directed Mutagenesis"

* Dr. Robert S. Snyder, New Century Pharmaceuticals Inc., Huntsville
"Electrophoretic Focusing"

* Dr. Peter O. Vekilov, University of Alabama in Huntsville
"Effects of Connective Transport of Solute and Impurities on Defect-Causing Kinetics Instabilities in Protein Crystallization"

For More Information:
Interviews are available with NASA, industry and university researchers by contacting Steve Roy of the Marshall Center Media Relations Office at (256) 544-6535.

More information about NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center and Microgravity Research Program experiments can be found at: http://www.msfc.nasa.gov/news and http://microgravity.msfc.nasa.gov/MICROGRAVITY/

NASA/Marshall Space Flight Center News Center

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