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UT Southwestern scientist receives NIH Director's Pioneer Award

DALLAS Sept. 19, 2006 -- Dr. Thomas Kodadek, chief of the Division of Translational Research at UT Southwestern Medical Center, has won a National Institutes of Health Director's Pioneer Award, designed to support scientists of "exceptional creativity."

Dr. Kodadek is one of two scientists in Texas to receive the 2006 award, which honors each recipient with $500,000 per year for five years.

Now in its third year, the Pioneer Award has been given to 35 scientists. It is designed to allow researchers to pursue risky experiments that have the potential of producing highly innovative results. It is part of the NIH Roadmap for Medical Research, which promotes interdisciplinary and innovative research.

Dr. Kodadek's research seeks substances that can diagnose and block specific immune responses without suppressing the entire immune system. This approach could one day be used to treat autoimmune diseases, cancer, infection and other conditions.

"I'm pleased on several levels," said Dr. Kodadek, holder of the Julie and Louis Beecherl Jr. Chair in Medical Science. "One can do a lot of science on that kind of money, but obviously to be recognized in an elite group like that is really an honor."

Dr. Kodadek has drawn on his education in organic chemistry to create a vast collection of "peptoids" molecules closely related to, but more stable than, the peptides that make up proteins. By arranging thousands of peptoids in a rectangular array on a microscope slide and washing blood plasma over them, the pattern of binding of the antibodies to the peptoids can then be visualized. By looking at samples from animals (and later patients) with a known disease, peptoids that bind antibodies closely associated with that disease can be recognized. This provides an unbiased method with which to search for diagnostically useful autoantibodies.

Knowledge of how those peptoids interact with antibodies might be harnessed to an
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Contact: Aline McKenzie
aline.mckenzie@utsouthwestern.edu
214-648-3404
UT Southwestern Medical Center
19-Sep-2006


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