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Two UT Southwestern researchers awarded Sloan fellowships

DALLAS March 2, 2009 Two researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center have been named Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellows, an award intended to "support the work of exceptional young researchers early in their academic careers, and often at pivotal stages in their work."

Dr. Jennifer Kohler and Dr. Joseph Ready were honored for their work in chemistry. The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation recognizes excellence in physics, chemistry, computational and evolutionary molecular biology, computer science, economics, mathematics and neuroscience.

Dr. Kohler, assistant professor of internal medicine, and Dr. Ready, associate professor of biochemistry, each will receive $50,000 over two years. Sloan Fellows may pursue whatever line of research they wish, and the funds may be used in a wide variety of ways.

"It was a bit of a surprise to me, because I thought they'd forgotten about me," said Dr. Kohler, who was originally nominated last year.

Her research involves carbohydrates on cell surfaces, which interact with other cells and the environment in many tasks. These often-fleeting interactions, however, are difficult to study. She and her colleagues make "unnatural sugars" that, when exposed to light, permanently bind to whatever they're contacting.

"It's like a snapshot of what's going on," she said. Her group plans to focus on enzymes that remove cell-surface carbohydrates from various types of human cancer cells. This interaction appears to be involved in resistance to some chemotherapies and radiation treatments.

Dr. Ready, a synthetic chemist, works with naturally occurring molecules from algae and soil bacteria to search for antibiotics and anti-cancer agents.

"It's been known for a long time that natural sources represent a wonderful supply of antibiotics and other drugs," he said. "And bacteria generate a great variety of small, biologically active molecules."

Once a potentially useful compound is identified, Dr. Ready and his colleagues find ways to synthesize it in large quantities. In addition, they may modify it chemically to make it more effective, or to make the synthesis easier.

Previous fellowship winners from UT Southwestern are Dr. Jef DeBrabander, professor of biochemistry, 2001; and Dr. Patrick Harran, former professor of biochemistry, 2002. The Sloan Research Fellowships have been awarded since 1955.


Contact: Aline McKenzie
UT Southwestern Medical Center

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