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February 26, 2009

THREE CCNY CHEMISTRY PROFESSORS AWARDED FEDERAL RESEARCH GRANTS TOTALING $4.76 MILLION

All Affiliated With CUNY Institute for Macromolecular Assemblies

NEW YORK, February 26, 2009 – Three chemistry professors at The City College of New York (CCNY), all investigators affiliated with the CUNY Institute for Macromolecular Assemblies (MMA), have been awarded four separate multiyear research grants from the federal government totaling $4.76 million.

Macromolecular assemblies are three-dimensional structures that enable plant and animal cells to perform the functions necessary to sustain life.  CUNY MMA, which is based at CCNY, aims to understand these complex processes at the molecular level and build on research and education programs throughout CUNY to address fundamental and applied questions at this frontier of life sciences research.

The awards and recipients are as follows:

  • A $1,661,554 National Institutes of Health (NIH) RO1 grant and $991,984 National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to Dr. Ranajeet Ghose, Associate Professor of Chemistry.  Both are over five-year periods.
  • A $1,053,700 NIH MBRS SCORE grant to Dr. Kevin Ryan, Assistant Professor of Chemistry, over four years.
  • A $997,168 National Science Foundation grant to Dr. Ruth Stark, Distinguished Professor of Chemistry and Director of CUNY MMA, over five years.

Professors Ghose and Ryan are also members of the Center for the Study of the Cellular and Molecular Basis of Development, an RCMI institute (Research Center in Minority Institutions) at CCNY.

Professor Ghose’s research aims to provide a self-consistent, four-dimensional view of protein interactions in space and time and their influence on key cellular signaling pathways.  The life cycle of all living things depends upon the regulation of this communication network at the cellular level.  When that goes awry, disastrous consequences, including development of cancers and other diseases, can occur.

The NIH-supported investigation seeks to illuminate the multiple spatial and temporal processes involved in the catalytic activation of a class of cellular messengers called kinases.  Better understanding of the functioning of these molecules in space and time will improve current cancer-fighting therapies and aid the design of new strategies against this deadly disease.

Professor Ghose’s NSF award will be used to determine how protein interactions within a simple virus determine the integrity of its genetic material and, consequently, its ability to infect a target host.  The investigation findings should provide insight into more complex viruses, including human pathogens such as the rotaviruses, and lead to the design of novel antiviral drugs.

Professor Ryan is investigating the gene expression processing reaction known as messenger RNA 3' end formation, in which at least four macromolecular assemblies work together to carry out the critical biochemical reaction.  Preliminary experiments have verified a hypothesis that the process might be controlled through enzymatic phosphorylation, the addition of a phosphate group to a molecule, in one of the four assembly proteins.

The investigation aims to identify the phosphorylated protein and investigate how phosphate is added to or removed from it.  The findings could shed light on genetic diseases that result when 3' end formation goes awry.   

Professor Stark is using nondestructive methods such as solid-state nuclear magnetic resonance, atomic force microscopy and biomechanical analysis to discover the molecular architectures underlying the protective functions of plant cuticle.  The cuticle is the ‘smart’ surface of a plant that regulates the flow of water and chemicals from the outside environment and protects against microbial invaders.

The work could guide strategies to enhance the hardiness of important food crops and improve the design of fiber-reinforced waterproofing materials.  The impact will also be felt in the classroom, where Professor Stark and her team are developing a “Touring the Tomato” laboratory curriculum for high school students.  It will be offered this summer in collaboration with CUNY’s College Now program and CCNY’s Pathways Bioinformatics and Biomolecular Center.

About The City College of New York

For more than 160 years, The City College of New York has provided low-cost, high-quality education for New Yorkers in a wide variety of disciplines.  Over 15,000 students pursue undergraduate and graduate degrees in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; The School of Architecture, Urban Design and Landscape Architecture (SAUDLA); The School of Education; The Grove School of Engineering, and The Sophie Davis School of Biomedical Education.  For additional information, visit www.ccny.cuny.edu.

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