Chemist Murray Goodman of La Jolla, Calif., will be honored August 28 by the worlds largest scientific society for his efforts to develop better drugs to relieve pain, facilitate organ transplants or treat disease with fewer side effects. He will receive the 2001 Arthur C. Cope Scholar Award from the American Chemical Society at its national meeting in Chicago.
Goodmans research at the University of California, San Diego, aims to mimic the action of peptides. These small cousins of proteins help direct processes in the body as diverse as transmitting signals in the brain to destroying an invading virus.
The question we ask is how do these biomolecules work, and how can we improve on them that is, to make a drug more selective and more potent, said Goodman, a bioorganic chemist.
For example, Theres a very clear need for treatment of chronic pain. Opium-derived morphine is the current standard, but it can inhibit digestion and breathing as well as cause problems with addiction and the need for ever-increasing doses, called tolerance.
Were interested in taking natures opioids, such as endorphins, and trying to make them more effective without involving the defects of morphine, Goodman said. His team must uncover new strategies and chemical reactions to make building blocks of peptide mimics as well as the novel target molecules themselves, he added.
To that end, the chemist uses computer simulations to design and analyze new candidates, and various detection techniques to determine the three-dimensional arrangement of their atoms. That information, combined with data from collaborators who test candidates in living cells, helps him fine-tune a mimics structure as it relates to function.
Goodman said he has candidates for painkillers, anticancer agents and cell-signaling molecules currently in preclinical trials.