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NIH awards Eckerd College $747,000 grant to study cancer-fighting drugs

By Tom Scherberger
Published April 14, 2014
Categories: Academics

The National Institutes of Health has awarded $747,000 to Eckerd College to fund computational modeling of how certain cancer-fighting drugs interact in the human body.

It is the first NIH grant ever awarded to Eckerd College. Assistant Professor of Chemistry Joseph Larkin, Ph.D., will use the grant to develop methods to study boron-based pharmaceuticals that fight resistant cancers, such as pancreatic and ovarian cancers. The NIH National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute K22 Career Development Award will fund three years of study, beginning this summer.

Eckerd College students will work with Larkin on the project, along with graduate students and faculty from the University of South Florida.

The research will focus not only on how the body interacts with boron-based drugs but how they work, with the goal to develop methods of early cancer detection.

Larkin received his Ph.D. is from the University of Georgia with a concentration in quantum chemistry. His post-doctoral training was at the NIH, where he worked on computational methods for studying biochemical systems over different time and length scales. Application of these new methods focused on therapies containing boron and how they react with enzymes in the body.

“Using computer models for this type of study is still a very new area of science,” said Larkin. “I am pleased and excited that the NIH has agreed to fund this work.”

The grant underscores Larkin’s stellar reputation as a researcher, said Dean of Faculty Suzan Harrison. “For Dr. Larkin to be awarded this is so impressive,” she said. “I am thrilled that it will allow some of our students to be involved in a research project that can have tremendous value and impact on the world. That is a rare opportunity for undergraduate students and real credit to Eckerd College.”

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