For unique research that opened new insights into how influenza and other infectious disease agents might be stopped from infecting mammalian cells, Quan Nhu, PhD has been awarded the 2010 Translational Graduate Research Award from the Office of Research and Development (ORD) at the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB).
"We recognize the best basic research each year that has the greatest potential to transcribe into new products: therapeutics, diagnostics or devices. Dr. Nhu's innovative work falls into that category and offers a potential weapon in the fight against life-threatening infections," says Elizabeth Hart-Wells, PhD, former executive director for ORD's Office of Commercial Ventures and Intellectual Property, who presented the award.
Nhu earned his doctorate under the tutelage of Stefanie Vogel, PhD, professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology in the School of Medicine at UMB.
"Quan Nhu has been an exemplary graduate student and will be an even better researcher," says Vogel. "His recent findings have revealed two new potential targets for therapeutic intervention in influenza infection. To date this research has only been carried out in mice. Further studies will be required to determine if these same receptors play a role in human influenza infection. Quan's contributions to this study as part of a team of researchers were highly significant. Credit also goes to his co-authors on his 'Nature Mucosal Immunology' paper: Drs. Kari Ann Shirey, John Teijaro, Donna Farber, Sarah Netzel-Arnett, Toni Antalis, Alessio Fasano, and me."
Nhu says, "There is an urgent need to incorporate new anti-influenza drugs into the current armament of licensed antiviral drugs, including amantadine, rimantadine, Tamiflu, and Relenza. Viral resistance has been reported to these drugs. My work identified previously unknown host receptors as potential targets for developing new drugs."
The two kinds of cell receptors,toll-like receptors and proteinase-activated receptors, were previously known to be "gatekeepers of infection" that sense the presence of invading pathogens.
Nhu and colleagues in the Vogel laboratory previously reported functional and physical interactions between them. Consequently, Nhu hypothesized that their workings would converge when "engaged" to react to an infectious disease agent (bacteria or virus).