November 21, 2003

Fellows sweep international xenobiotic meeting awards

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Left to right: Wooin Lee, Ph.D., Dr. Richard B. Kim, associate professor of Medicine and Pharmacology, L. Harris Smith, Ph.D. and Dr. Richard H. Ho. Dana Johnson

Fellows sweep international xenobiotic meeting awards

Three postdoctoral fellows in the laboratory of Dr. Richard B. Kim, associate professor of Medicine and Pharmacology, won the top awards for best abstract/presentation at the 2003 annual meeting of the International Society for the Study of Xenobiotics. ISSX, with more than 2,500 members, is the major international scientific society for investigators of drug metabolism.

Wooin Lee, Ph.D. won first place, and Dr. Richard H. Ho and L. Harris Smith, Ph.D. tied for second place. Their abstracts were three of nearly 500 submitted for the meeting, held last month in Providence, R.I.

The fellows received a plaque, free year-long journal subscription and a cash award.

“I must say I am rather proud of them,” Kim said, adding that he did not believe three fellows from the same laboratory had ever before garnered the top three awards. “This is an important meeting for scientists in the area of drug metabolism and disposition. Many Vanderbilt investigators are members of this society and regularly attend and present at the meeting.”

Research in Kim’s laboratory focuses on the factors that contribute to differences in how individuals metabolize and respond to drugs. The laboratory studies drug transporters — proteins that move drugs and other chemicals across cell membranes —and drug-metabolizing cytochrome P450 enzymes both at the molecular level and in human beings.

Kim and colleagues have identified a number of genetic changes in the genes for transporters that move drugs like fexofenadine (Allegra) and HIV-1 protease inhibitors. More recently, they have also focused on regulatory proteins called nuclear receptors and how they alter the expression of cytochrome P450 enzymes and drug transporters.