EVANSTON, Ill. --- Bartosz Grzybowski of Evanston, assistant professor of chemical and biological engineering at Northwestern University, has been named a 2006 Pew Scholar in the Biomedical Sciences by The Pew Charitable Trusts and the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF). The award provides $240,000 in research support over four years.
Grzybowski's research focuses on the development of new drugs and the experimental tools used to facilitate the practice of drug discovery. He is particularly interested in bioactive small molecules targeting cytoskeletal machinery and the motility of cells. His group focuses on actin binding proteins that, by crosslinking actin filaments in a network and/or facilitating its turnover, ensure efficient pushing of the membrane, protusion and consequent directional cell movement. The long-term objective of this work is to develop new chemotherapies preventing cancerous cells from acquiring a tissue-invasive, directional motility phenotype leading to metastasis, the major cause of mortality in cancer patients.
Grzybowski's group uses a variety of techniques ranging from rational drug discovery to biochemical and cell biological approaches. They design drug candidates using in silico combinatorial algorithms, synthesize the most promising molecules, and then test their activity in both nanoparticle protein-ligand binding assays, as well as in ensembles of micropatterned living cells of controlled shapes and minimal cell-to-cell heterogeneiety. Grzybowski hopes that this interdisciplinary approach -- one combining elements of cell biology, nanoscience, self-assembly and statistical mechanics -- will provide a basis for an integrated computer-to-drug technology platform and, ultimately, to better medicines for the cancer patients.
In addition to the Pew award, Grzybowski recently received a National Science Foundation CAREER Award, a 3M Non-tenured faculty grant and the American Chemical Society Division of Colloids and Interfaces Unilever Award.