November 17, 2006

NIH grant to help enhance drug discovery training efforts

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Larry Marnett, Ph.D.

NIH grant to help enhance drug discovery training efforts

Vanderbilt University Medical Center has been awarded a four-year, $1.3 million grant by the National Institutes of Health to train graduate students and post-doctoral fellows in drug discovery.

The grant, entitled “Integrative Training in Therapeutic Discovery,” will fund two yearlong projects for three graduate students and three post-doctoral fellows.

The aim is to “bridge” translational medicine and chemical biology, said Larry Marnett, Ph.D., director of the Vanderbilt Institute of Chemical Biology (VICB) and the grant's principal investigator.

Participants will start in the clinic, and will identify an unmet medical need. With the help of faculty mentors in translational medicine, they will propose a potential new way to treat a disease, such as by blocking a receptor, for example.

Then, with the help of faculty mentors in chemical biology, they will generate drug-like molecules to test their “therapeutic hypothesis.”

“This is a very unique program that provides a training component for the drug discovery activities supported by our other Roadmap grant, the Molecular Libraries Screening Center Network,” Marnett said.

Last year, VICB's high-throughput screening (HTS) facility received NIH funding to participate in the network, which uses drug-discovery tools like HTS to screen massive “libraries” of small molecules for therapeutic or research potential.

The Roadmap is a sweeping plan developed by NIH to accelerate the translation of basic science discoveries into tangible benefits for patients.

The new grant, “along with the investment that the VICB has made in drug discovery, really puts us in a terrific position to be a leading institution in academic drug discovery,” Marnett said.

For more information about this and other training opportunities for graduate students, visit the VICB Web site at