Promising drug research by George Washington University Chemistry Professor Cynthia Dowd
to treat tuberculosis will be accelerated and expanded thanks to an NIH Challenge Grant in Health and Science Research, funded through The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. NIH designated $200 million for fiscal years 2009 and 2010 toward research in treating medical conditions. From more than 20,000 applicants, NIH selected only 1 percent of the proposals, including the one by Dowd.
“This is a fantastic opportunity,” said Dowd, who is working to develop small molecule inhibitors of biochemical pathways that the TB bacterium, Mycobacterium tuberculosis
, needs to survive. This past summer, she successfully created molecules based on a compound called fosmidomycin, which killed the TB bacterium. Her current research focuses on ways to change the structure of fosmidomycin so that it works specifically against TB.
“Think of the current drugs as different routes all going toward the same city,” explained Dowd. “Sometimes those routes have roadblocks—such as drug resistance—that keep us from getting to that city. Our research finds new roads to take us to our goal ‘city,’ which is curing TB.”
The NIH Challenge Grants were created to address specific scientific and health research “challenge areas” in biomedical and behavioral research that would benefit from significant 2-year jumpstart funds. Challenge areas, as defined by NIH, focus on specific knowledge gaps, scientific opportunities, new technologies, data generation or research methods that would benefit from an influx of money to quickly advance the area in significant ways. Research in these areas should result in the advancement of biomedical or behavioral science and/or public health.
“This is an incredibly prestigious award for GW,” said Michael King, the chairman of GW’s Department of Chemistry. “It is a testimony to the kind of research taking place within our department and our University.”
Tuberculosis, which is becoming more difficult to treat because current drugs are no longer as effective, is found primarily in the lungs but can appear in other parts of the body. It kills 2 million people worldwide each year, and 9 million new cases are diagnosed annually. HIV-positive patients are particularly susceptible.
GW’s Chemistry Department is part of the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, the largest of the University's academic units with more than 40 departments and programs for undergraduate, graduate and professional studies. An internationally recognized faculty and active partnerships with prestigious research institutions place Columbian College at the forefront in advancing policy, enhancing culture and transforming lives through scientific research and discovery.