CPRIT gives $1 million to Health Science Center researchers

SAN ANTONIO (March 30, 2012) – The UT Health Science Center was awarded $1 million yesterday by the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas to fund instrumentation that will help researchers develop new cancer-fighting drugs.

Understanding how proteins work within cancer cells provides keys to developing the drugs that inhibit their activity, said Andrew Hinck, Ph.D., a professor of biochemistry in the School of Medicine at the Health Science Center and the lead researcher on the grant. The equipment that this grant supports will take the UT Health Science Center’s screening capabilities to a new level.

“Most screening looks at whether the inhibitor binds,” Dr. Hinck said. “With the NMR-based fragment screening approach we are proposing, you can see not only whether they bind, but precisely where they bind on the part of the protein that you want to target, and not somewhere else where it won’t do you any good.”

This equipment will help several Health Science Center scientists in the grant who have already gotten a good start on their research, he said, and other Texas researchers will have access to the equipment as well.

“We already know the important targets on the proteins we’ve looking at,” he said. “We can try to identify new inhibitors for known cancer targets, which translates into developing new drugs.”

Texas voters approved a constitutional amendment in 2007 establishing CPRIT and authorizing the state to issue $3 billion in bonds to fund groundbreaking cancer research and prevention programs and services in Texas. CPRIT’s goal is to expedite innovation and commercialization in cancer research and to enhance access to evidence-based prevention programs and services throughout the state.

The Cancer Therapy & Research Center (CTRC) at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio is one of the elite academic cancer centers in the country to be named a National Cancer Institute (NCI) Designated Cancer Center, and is one of only four in Texas. A leader in developing new drugs to treat cancer, the CTRC Institute for Drug Development (IDD) conducts one of the largest oncology Phase I clinical drug programs in the world, and participates in development of cancer drugs approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration. For more information, visit www.ctrc.net.

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