Mark of Excellence
CHORI Senior Scientist Robert Ryan, PhD Wins NIH MERIT Award
NIH MERIT Awards convert existing NIH R01 research grants, which generally require renewal procedures on a two to five year basis, into ten-year grants during which time researchers do not have to bear the administrative burdens of renewals.
"It's not only an incredible honor, but MERIT Awards are also of huge benefit to researchers," says Dr. Lucas. "Meeting the rigorous demands of grant renewal can be very time consuming. It allows a great deal of breathing room to focus entirely on the research itself."
Those who receive MERIT awards do not apply for them. Instead, recipients are chosen by program staff at the respective NIH institutions, in this case, the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI). The NHLBI selects MERIT Award recipients on the basis of their exceptional talent and imagination, as well as on their record of preeminent scientific achievement and contributions of lasting scientific value."I've had the original grant for as long as I've been at CHORI, since 2000. I've been lucky enough to have it renewed twice, and now, to have it converted into a MERIT Award," says Dr. Ryan.
Throughout the course of the grant, Dr. Ryan's team will be using a novel technique to evaluate apo E and LDLR, called expressed protein ligation, which allows researchers for the first time to study apo E at high resolution while it is actually in a lipid-bound state, as well as while it is bound to LDLR.
"One of the real bottlenecks in structural biology has been the study of lipid-bound systems, including proteins like apo E that function primarily when they are bound with lipids," explains Dr. Ryan. "Expressed protein ligation allows us to simplify the complexity of lipid-bound systems by selectively labeling only one portion of the protein at a time. It allows you to interpret your data with much greater clarity in order to truly understand what the interaction is between apo E and LDLR."
Dr. Ryan hopes to be able to utilize expressed protein ligation to illuminate fundamental questions regarding how a single amino acid difference between apo E4 and other apo E forms can cause such a dramatic affect, as well as how LDLR and apo E interact to make sure that lipids are delivered to their correct locations.
"By understanding the nature of apo-E interaction with other proteins, how those interactions occur, and what might be modifying those interactions, we hope to elucidate the fundamental mechanisms that get at the root cause of both coronary heart disease and AD," says Dr. Ryan.
Tuesday, May 17, 2011 8:19 AM