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Florida Atlantic University and Torrey Pines Institute Enter into Agreement for Cancer Research

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Florida Atlantic University and Torrey Pines Institute for Molecular Studies (TPIMS) have signed an agreement to use compounds from TPIMS to enable faculty and students from the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science to work to identify anti-cancer drugs and therapies.

A research team headed by Dr. Ramaswamy Narayanan, associate dean and professor of biology in FAU's Charles E. Schmidt College of Science, has identified a cancer specific gene called SIM2. This gene is found on chromosome 21 and is normally associated with Down's syndrome.

Narayanan and his research associates identified the SIM2 gene using an approach called bioinformatics, which uses the power of computers to understand biology and medicine.

This gene is specific to three major cancers: colon, prostate and pancreas.  This research at FAU was facilitated by the availability of a instrument called the Affymetrix GeneChip machine, an equipment that is able to process genes at high speed and identify those that are active only in cancer cells.

In collaboration with Dr. Wim Van De Ven from Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in Belgium, an assay to discover the inhibitor of the patented SIM2 gene was developed at FAU. Using this assay, thousands of compounds from TPIMS’ collection will be screened for anti-cancer drugs.

“Florida Atlantic University has the basic research and proof-of-concept in place, and Torrey Pines Institute for Molecular Studies has the compounds and expertise to help expedite drug discovery,” said Narayanan. “This collaboration is a great example of moving important therapies from the lab bench to the patient.”

“We are very pleased to be working with researchers from FAU and to provide these vital compounds which have the potential to unlock cures for cancer and other diseases,” said Dr. Richard Houghten, president of Torrey Pines Institute for Molecular Studies. “This agreement represents the importance of collaboration for groundbreaking science and drug discovery.”

Realizing the potential of genome research, FAU is taking the lead in bioinformatics in this region and has established a strong infrastructure for research, training and technology development. Spearheaded by Narayanan, FAU has formed the Florida Bioinformatics Consortium composed of more than 50 scientists from public and private universities, hospitals, and industry and research institutions.

“Clues to many life-threatening illnesses reside in the roughly 30,000 genes that are present in the human genome,” said Dr. Gary Perry, dean of the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science. “Our scientists and collaborators from Torrey Pines Institute for Molecular Studies and other outstanding research institutions are working together to uncover and decipher information that holds the key to disease susceptibility, aging and response to drug treatment.

According to the National Cancer Institute, cancer is the second major cause of death in the industrialized world. It is estimated that 1,444,920 men and women (766,860 men and 678,060 women) will be diagnosed with and 559,650 men and women will die of cancer in the U.S. in 2007. There is currently no treatment for pancreatic cancer and no diagnostic tests for colon or pancreatic cancer.

“Dr. Narayanan’s discovery spans the fields of molecular biology, genomics, bioinformatics, pathology and medicine,” said Dr. Larry F. Lemanski, vice president for research at FAU. “We believe that a new utility of a gene whose expression is modulated in select cancers has the ability to improve diagnosis and treatment options and increase chances for patient survival.”