York researchers recognized

The Canada Foundation for Innovation recently sent certificates of congratulations to various York faculty who have received CFI grants during the past year. VP Research & Innovation Stan Shapson (in photo below) had the happy task of delivering the certificates to the following researchers.

Katalin Hudak – The molecular basis for PAP inhibition of AIDS virus

Prof. Katalin Hudak, left, is studying the anti-viral protein from the Pokeweed plant (PAP), which is native to southern Canada and has proved to be the most potent anti-viral protein to date, inhibiting both plant and animal viruses, including HIV, influenza and polio virus.

Unlike other ribosome-inactivating proteins in its class, PAP does not kill the host cell at effective doses, and it has low immunogenicity and limited side effects. When used to target T-cells of patients infected with HIV, researchers were surprised to discover that PAP inhibited virus replication without host cell death, in a process that has yet to be understood.

PAP has since become the first targeted biotherapy against the AIDS virus, showing reduced infection and increased immune function in HIV-infected patients. The Medicines Control Council in South Africa has approved use of PAP for treatment of those who do not have access to costly drug therapies.

PAP has also exhibited anti-viral activity against plant viruses in seven different virus groups, and it is expected that transformation with the PAP gene has the potential to protect plants from a range of viruses.

Hudak, in the Department of Biology, Faculty of Pure & Applied Science, is working to understand the activity of PAP at the molecular level, to determine how PAP targets viral RNAs, and to identify host proteins that mediate PAP’s anti-viral activity. Her work is expected to contribute to the design of new anti-viral agents based on PAP, with applications in both medicine and agriculture.

Logan Donaldson – Understanding protein partnerships to prevent and treat disease

Mutations in our genes ultimately result in damaged proteins. These damaged proteins may produce fundamental changes in a cell, possibly leading to disease or cancer.

By understanding what “normal” molecules look like, Prof. Logan Donaldson says he and his research team are able to better understand their function. His findings will lead to more effective drugs to combat such diseases as cancer.

“Cancer is a disease of proteins that have gone awry,” says Donaldson. “A picture is worth a thousand words, so the saying goes, and a molecular picture gives us insight into molecular function and into how we can modify molecules.”

Donaldson, in the Department of Biology, Faculty of PUre & Applied Science, uses a technique called Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) spectroscopy to gain atomic level information on key proteins that help a cell make a fateful decision to divide or mature. His research program blends aspects of molecular biology, biochemistry and computing. The CFI award funded the purchase of a biochemistry laboratory to manufacture and analyze proteins as well as a computing cluster to perform complex molecular calculations.

CFI is an independent corporation established by the Government of Canada in 1997.