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Rensselaer leads effort to replace 1 of the most widely used drugs in American hospitals
Date:9/17/2009

by co-principal investigator and project director for the partnership grant, Robert Linhardt, who is the Ann and John H. Broadbent Jr. '59 Senior Constellation Professor of Biocatalysis and Metabolic Engineering at Rensselaer. Linhardt, who was recently named one of the Scientific American 10, is among the world's foremost experts on heparin. His lab led the effort to find the contamination in 2008. And while Linhardt continues to develop more sophisticated detection systems to ensure a safer stream of drugs to the marketplace, he is also helping lead the race for a safer, man-made alternative to the traditional biologic heparin.

Linhardt helped discover the "recipe" for synthetic heparin three years ago with Jian Liu of the University of North Carolina. In August 2008, Linhardt announced that his team had constructed a milligram quantity of the purer, safer alternative creating the first fully synthetic heparin, and the largest amount ever created in the laboratory. Now he joins Dordick and fellow principal investigators Research Associate Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering Fuming Zhang; Associate Professor Jian Liu from the University of North Carolina; and Professor Shaker Mousa from Albany College of Pharmacy, to scale up their capacity to manufacture the drug from a milligram to a kilogram a million-fold increase. A kilogram quantity of the drug would provide a strong foundation for the production of the millions of doses of the drug that would be required each year, according to the researchers.

"We believe a replacement for the currently available heparin is truly within our grasp," Linhardt said. "Some of the most important priorities of the research from here will be to create a simple and cost-effective process that can be easily replicated to produce a bioengineered, non-animal heparin at scales and cost sufficient to satisfy the therapeutic needs in the U.S."

The NIH grant totals nearly $4.7 million and will fund five
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Contact: Gabrielle DeMarco
demarg@rpi.edu
518-276-6542
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Source:Eurekalert

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