Washington, September 26 (ANI): Vikas Nanda, a scientist of Indian origin, has won the prestigious National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director's New Innovator Award this year.
Dr. Nanda is assistant professor of biochemistry and a member of the Center for Advanced Biotechnology and Medicine at UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.
He will receive 1.5 million dollars over five years to support his novel approach to creating a synthetic network of proteins resembling the extracellular matrix of mammalian cells.
This will allow research into the role of the matrix in normal and disease processes and help translate new findings into the development of biomaterials, which can then be used to engineer artificial tissue for treatment of human diseases.
"Dr. Nanda has demonstrated exceptional innovation as a researcher and is highly deserving of the esteemed New Innovator Award," said Peter S. Amenta, MD, PhD, dean of UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.
"His research into the role extracellular matrices play in causing disease could transform therapy for patients," he added.
The extracellular matrix (ECM) is a complex network of proteins that provides a surface upon which cells can adhere, transform and spread rapidly.
The ECM mediates communication within cells and under normal conditions can suppress a cell's transformation from a normal state to one that is malignant.
Alterations in the ECM are critical contributors to a wide spectrum of diseases, including cancer, lupus and other autoimmune disorders.
Dr. Nanda's research focuses on the construction of artificial collagen-based matrices using computational methods.
These matrices will be used to examine the role of chemical and spatial organization of the network of proteins in the ECM on the tumor forming potential of adhered cells.
"I am honored to receive support for my research from the NIH," said Dr. Nanda.
"By constructing artificial matrices, we can explore their ability to suppress rapid cell growth in the presence of various signals that contribute to abnormal tumor development. This will provide a powerful system for studying molecular aspects of the matrix biology of cancer," he added.
Dr. Nanda added that successfully designed matrices can be applied to engineering safer artificial human tissues that may provide therapeutic treatment of chronic diseases, including those of the bowel, bone and skin.
According to the NIH, New Innovator Awards support a small number of investigators of exceptional creativity who are early in their research careers. (ANI)