Professor Nicolas Doucet of the Centre INRS-Institut Armand-Frappier has just received a research grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the amount of nearly US$600,000. The 5-year grant is to pursue cutting-edge research in the workings of tiny proteins called RNases and to explore their biomedical potential in the field of oncology as well as in inflammation and asthma.
"Receiving a grant at this level is an accomplishment in itself," said Yves Bégin, vice president of research and academic affairs at INRS. "It recognizes outstanding achievement. It is also a sign of the importance and potential of Professor Doucet's work on proteins in movement, further contributing to our understanding of how living beings work."
Professor Doucet will work with two American researchers to develop new computer and experimental tools for studying the dynamics of ribonucleases (RNases) and the processes involved in enzyme catalysis, molecular recognition, and signalling. Their approach is based on experimental computation and molecular dynamics and combines modelling, molecular simulation, and nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR).
Professor Doucet and his team are interested in this family of enzymes and its essential role in the formation of new blood vessels, the degradation of ribonucleic acid (RNA), and in defending against RNA viruses. A better understanding of their molecular function and dynamics could lead to new medications for inhibiting the proliferation of cancer cells or fighting a number of pathogens. The new methodologies they develop could also be used to study other enzyme systems.
Professor Doucet's NMR characterization of the ribonuclease superfamily project is part of the NIH-funded "Conformational sub-states in enzyme catalysis: Applications to the ribonuclease family" research initiative being conducted in partnership with the University of Pittsburgh's Professor Chakra Chennubhotla and Professor Pratul K. Agarwal of Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee.
The National Institutes of Health, an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Social Services, is made up of 20 institutes and seven centres conducting medical and biomedical research. Their mission is to seek fundamental knowledge on the nature and behaviour of living systems and the application of that knowledge to enhance health, lengthen life, and reduce illness and disability.
Institut national de recherche scientifique (INRS) is the top-ranking graduate research and training university in Canada in terms of research intensity. INRS brings together some 150 professors and close to 700 students and postdoctoral fellows in its centres in Montreal, Quebec City, Laval, and Varennes. Conducting fundamental research essential to the advancement of science in Quebec as well as internationally, INRS research teams also play a critical role in developing concrete solutions to problems facing our society.