Scientist honored with second-most cited research paper of the decade

Wladek Minor's busy laboratory inside Jordan Hall at the University of Virginia Health System is famous for strong cappuccino and European chocolates. But now there's something a lot bigger to crow about- the esteem of his competitive scientific colleagues around the world.

A professor of molecular physiology and biological physics and a native of Poland, Minor is a pioneer in the growing field of protein crystallography. His lab's work is not going unnoticed. A 1997 paper, "Processing of X-ray Differentiation Data Collected in Oscillation Mode," published with Zbyszek Otwinowski, a colleague at the University of Texas, is now the second-most cited scientific paper in the world in the last ten years, according to The Scientist magazine. The title may glaze the eyes of a layman, but the discovery is a building block of science and may one day help doctors treat cancer patients or people with viruses. "We are trying to elucidate the 3-dimensional structure of protein molecules which will hopefully lead to new cures for a host of diseases," Minor said.

Inside the Minor lab, a joyful polyglot of languages- Polish, Chinese, English- fills the air, usually seven days a week, amid chemical bottles, beakers, machines and microscopes. Minor's scientists use personal digital assistants (PDA's) connected to a central server to track all their experiments.

Minor and his ambitious team are tearing apart tiny proteins, trying to figure out the relationship between their structure and function. Their goal is to solve one of the greatest mysteries in intelligent drug design- how specific, targeted drugs can kill viruses or cancer cells by finding their way around the human body's complex chemistry and innumerable defenses.

The 1997 paper describes a computer program used to process the data coming from X-ray experiments made on protein crystals. The program is now used in over 1,200 laboratories worldwide and has been improved over the years. Mino

Contact: Bob Beard
University of Virginia Health System

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