Arvin Dar, PhD, structural and chemical biologist in oncological sciences at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, is one of 41 national recipients of the prestigious National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director's New Innovator Awards for High-Risk, High Reward Research. The award will support Dar's research into Ras-dependent cancers, specifically investigating how to combat mutations in Ras, a protein implicated in at least one of every five cancers.
Even though Ras mutations have long been known as critical drivers of cancer, metastasis, and resistance to chemotherapy, drug development in this area has been dissappointing. It turns out that the structural biology underlying Ras mutations is extremely complex.
Dr. Dar, along with other researchers at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and the University of California San Francisco have been instrumental in advancing this research.
Dr. Dar's laboratory has been investigating new targets or strategies that show promise in interrupting the Ras pathway. The work is highly interdisciplinary, incorporating methods from synthetic organic chemistry, mass spectrometry, informatics, biochemistry, and model organism genetics. The eventual goal is to produce new classes of small molecule drugs that impede cancers.
"NIH is excited to support visionary investigators," said NIH Director Francis S. Collins, MD, PhD. This research has "the potential to transform scientific fields and accelerate the translation of scientific research into improved health."
The NIH Common Fund, in partnership with other NIH Institutes, are key backers of the NIH Director's New Innovators Fund. These programs are designed to overcome major research barriers, specifically catalyzing disease-specific research.
In accepting the award, Dr. Dar said: "It is truly an honor to be included in this year's recipients as it is a highly competitive funding mechanism. I have benefited greatly from support and mentorship of Mount Sinai faculty, including Stuart Aaronson and Ross Cagan, as well as my postdoctoral advisor, Kevan Shokat, at the University of California San Francisco. My previous work with them has led to a compound that is currently progressing towards a human clinical trial, and this new funding will allow us to explore new avenues in drug therapy."
Thirty years ago, Mount Sinai researchers played a pivotal role in first discovering Ras mutations, and their relationship to cancer biology. Stuart Aaronson, PhD, and Prem Reddy, PhD, made significant inroads in uncovering Ras mutations.
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