The Department of Physics at The University of Texas at El Paso was recently awarded a $1.5 million grant to research kinesins as potential targets for cancer drug development.
Lin Li, Ph.D., assistant professor of computational biophysics, is the sole principal investigator of the four-year study, which will investigate important mechanisms for kinesins, a type of biological motor protein.
Li said learning more about the way kinesins move could help with the design of anti-mitotic drugs, which are meant to inhibit cancer cell division.
“Traditional anti-mitotic drugs face two significant issues: serious side effects and strong drug resistance for some types of cancers,” Li said. “Due to the unique features, Human kinesin-5s (Eg5) become promising alternative anti-mitotic drug targets.”
Li’s work adds to a growing body of cancer-focused research at UTEP anchored by a $19.2 million grant awarded to the University’s Border Biomedical Research Center (BBRC) by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
The five-year grant will allow the BBRC to continue its quest to understand and identify the reasons for Hispanic cancer health disparities and their ultimate impact on the people of the Paso del Norte region.
The BBRC grant will provide significant research funding for UTEP cancer scientists to better understand the molecular mechanisms, and possibly environmental and lifestyle factors, that contribute to this multifaceted disease.
Funding will also be utilized to expand UTEP’s cancer tissue “bank” to study and identify possible new drugs that might prove useful in cancer treatment strategies in our primarily Mexican-American population.
While Li’s $1.5 million grant will support a four-year study, he said gaining a complete understanding of the mechanisms of all kinesin groupings will be a lengthy process.
Li will receive contributions to the project from Weihong Qiu, Ph.D., associate professor of physics and an expert on kinesins from Oregon State University.
At UTEP, three postdoctoral researchers as well as several graduate and undergraduate students will be involved.