Public Release: 

UGA receives $6.7 M grant that will add knowledge in fights against cancer, Parkinson's disease

University of Georgia

The National Center for Research Resources (NCRR), a component of the National Institutes of Health, has awarded a five-year grant of $6.7 million to a team headed by scientists at the University of Georgia for research that could eventually help in the treatment of certain kinds of cancer and Parkinson's Disease.

The grant is cosponsored by the National Cancer Institute and thereby counts toward the total award dollars needed to apply for an NCI Comprehensive Cancer Center Planning Award. This could be an important step in progress for the Georgia Cancer Coalition, in which UGA is collaborating with the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta to form the Georgia Cancer Research Center.

"This grant demonstrates yet again the quality of our faculty involved in research at the University of Georgia," said President Michael F. Adams. "The potential to alleviate human suffering through this work makes it tremendously important."

The large-scale cooperative project will include researchers from UGA, Georgia Tech, the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University, Yale University and Bresagen, Inc., as well as scientists from Japan.

"We are delighted that our work is increasingly drawing this kind of support," said Michael Pierce, principal investigator for the grant and faculty member at the Complex Carbohydrate Research Center and the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. "It demonstrates the high quality of our faculty and staff at the CCRC and at UGA, as well as those at Georgia Tech."

The NCRR supports primary research to create and develop critical resources, models and technologies. NCRR funding also provides biomedical researchers with access to diverse instrumentation, technologies, basic and clinical research facilities, animal models, genetic stocks, biomaterials and more. These resources enable scientific advances in biomedicine that lead to the development of lifesaving drugs, devices and therapies.

The research funded by the grant will focus on technologies to map the "glycome" of stem cell lines established by Bresagen, a private research company with offices and laboratories in Athens. "Glycome" describes all the complex carbohydrates attached to proteins and lipids that are made by a cell, as well as the enzymes responsible for their metabolism. It also describes the carbohydrate binding proteins that function by recognizing these complex carbohydrates.

"This proposal was one of only seven funded nationally in this first grant competition, so naturally, we are pleased," said Pierce.

This technology will allow the glycomic analysis of small numbers of cells and the means to isolate or kill these particular cells. The expected outcome will be directly applicable to the isolation of certain types of nerve cells for treatment of such diseases as Parkinson's, as well as development of new ways to diagnose and treat cancer.

Others in the research project include Kelley Moremen, Ron Orlando, Parastoo Asadi and Will York of the CCRC; Armit Sheth, John Miller and Krzysztof Kochut of UGA's computer science department and its Large Scale Distributed Information Systems Laboratory; Ian Lyons of Bresagen, Inc. (and an adjunct professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at UGA); and Alfred Merrill of Georgia Tech.

The Georgia Cancer Coalition (GCC) is a statewide public-private network of people and organizations - doctors, hospitals, government agencies, public health services, survivor and community health groups, universities, industries, nonprofits and interested individuals - working together to save lives and reduce human suffering from cancer.

Russ Toal, president of the Georgia Cancer Coalition, noted that "this grant award underscores Georgia's and UGA's determination to fight cancer with the best weapons in our arsenal: university leadership, quality faculty, world-class research, multi-institutional collaborations, public-private partnerships and commitment to being a leader in the war against this killer. We congratulate Dr. Pierce and his colleagues for all their good work, and we will do all we can to support their efforts in the years ahead."

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