International Researchers Receive Prestigious Grant
CBS prof to co-ordinate studies at universities in Canada, United States, Taiwan
BY DEIRDRE HEALEY
|Prof. Rod Merrill is the lead investigator of an international research team that has received a highly competitive Human Frontier Science grant.|
Prof. Rod Merrill, Molecular and Cellular Biology (MCB), has received a prestigious Human Frontier Science research grant.
Merrill is one of the first at U of G to receive this international award as the lead investigator of a research team. The grant provides $1.2 million over three years for novel and innovative research.
“Grants from Human Frontier Science are highly competitive and prestigious,” says MCB chair Chris Whitfield. “The award is a reflection of the quality of Dr. Merrill's work and acknowledgment of the excellent research environment here at the University of Guelph.”
The Human Frontier Science program supports interdisciplinary research focused on the complex mechanisms of living organisms. It awards research grants to teams of scientists from different countries who wish to combine their expertise to approach questions that could not be answered by individual laboratories. The team is expected to develop new lines of research through the collaboration.
Emphasis is placed on collaborations that bring together scientists from different disciplines, including biology, physics, mathematics, chemistry, computer science and engineering, to focus on problems in the life sciences.
Other members of Merrill's team are Carmay Lim of Academia Sinica in Taiwan, Norman Oppenheimer of the University of California, San Francisco, and Emil Pai of the University of Toronto.
The team will examine an enzyme-catalyzed chemical reaction as it occurs in protein crystals using time-resolved X-ray and laser techniques. The cutting-edge aspect of the research will be conducted in a specialized laboratory known as BioCARS at the Advanced Photon Source synchrotron in Chicago.
“It's a great opportunity to do research work that is bold and daring,” says Merrill. “It's an international grant, so it also gives you an opportunity to go global with your research.”
As lead investigator, he will be co-ordinating the research efforts at the four universities. His expertise is focused on protein toxins that function as enzymes to modify biological targets. He uses a wide array of physical, chemical and biological techniques to study these toxins.
“Toxins are produced by bacteria as tools to help invade human tissue. I'm interested in studying how they work so we can inactivate these tools and minimize the activity of disease-causing bacteria.”
Merrill has previously studied Pseudomonas aeruginosa exotoxin A, one member of a family of powerful enzymes produced by pathogenic bacteria that cause diseases such as cholera, diphtheria and pneumonia. Through this research, he revealed how the toxins attack and kill human cells, which could help in the design and application of therapeutics.