Aug. 24, 1999 NEW BRUNSWICK/PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- Dr. Edward Arnold, a resident faculty member of the Center for Advanced Biotechnology and Medicine (CABM) and a professor in Rutgers' department of chemistry, has won a prestigious National Institutes of Health (NIH) MERIT Award of more than $3 million.
The funding will extend support of Arnold's continuing research on a protein called reverse transcriptase (RT) that the AIDS virus uses to replicate its genetic material. RT is the target molecule for leading-edge, AIDS-fighting drugs such as AZT, DDI, Nevirapine and 3TC.
A limited number of the NIH MERIT (Method to Extend Research in Time) Awards are made to investigators who have demonstrated superior competence and outstanding productivity in their research and are likely to do so in the future. The awards double the amount and duration of a researcher's existing grant. Arnold currently has a five-year, $3.4 million NIH grant that will now be extended to approximately 10 years at a funding level expected to total in the range of $7 million with the MERIT Award five-year extension.
"One of the great developments in modern biology and life sciences is the breathtaking ability we now have to reduce a lot of important biological phenomena to the atomic level," said Arnold, who is a resident of Belle Mead. "We have been able to do this for a crucial part of the AIDS virus."
Many times a potent drug will be effective initially against HIV but as a result of the virus' ability to mutate, the drug will no longer work. "The emergence of drug resistance presents a stiff challenge in controlling an infection like HIV and this is a main focus of ours. One of the ideals of the pharmaceutical industry is to be able to develop 'irresistible' drugs," said Arnold.
An important application of Arnold's research is in the design and development of more effective drugs for treating AIDS. For almost 10 years, he has collaborated with scientists at Janssen Pharmaceutica, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson. Arnold and his group have obtained detailed pictures of how potential drug molecules made by chemists at Janssen block the essential machinery of the AIDS virus, and together they have published some of their key results in prominent scientific journals. Arnold's colleagues at Janssen, under the mentorship of Dr. Paul Janssen, the founder of the company, are using these pictures and other information to try to design new families of molecules with better activities.
For the past 12 years, Arnold has also been collaborating on this problem with Dr. Stephen Hughes of the NIH National Cancer Institute's Cancer Research and Development Center, which is obtaining biochemical and genetic characterizations of RT while Arnold's laboratory has generated structures in parallel. "What this does is allow us to have an integrated view of a very complex yet crucial player in a biological system -- in this case, one of extreme interest and importance since it is part of the AIDS virus," said Arnold.
Another key project in Arnold's laboratory, funded by the same agency at NIH but not covered by the MERIT Award, is concerned with AIDS vaccine design and development. Arnold co-directs this project with his wife, Dr. Gail Ferstandig Arnold, a CABM faculty member and a research professor in Rutgers' chemistry department.
The Center for Advanced Biotechnology and Medicine is jointly administered by the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey and Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, and is designated by the New Jersey Commission on Science and Technology as one of the state's advanced technology centers. Funding is provided by the Commission, Rutgers, UMDNJ, and other public and private sources.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Edward Arnold can be contacted at (732) 235-5323 or by
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