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TSRI Scientist Wins Presidential Early Career Award

La Jolla, CA., October 26, 2000 -- Twenty-nine-year-old Geoffrey Chang, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Molecular Biology, The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI), was named by President Clinton as one of the recipients of the fifth annual Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers. It is the highest honor bestowed by the United States government on young professionals at the outset of their independent research careers. The researchers received their awards this week in a White House ceremony.

Eight Federal departments and agencies join together annually to nominate the most meritorious young scientists and engineers who will broadly advance the science and technology that will be of the greatest benefit to fulfilling the agencies' missions.

"These extraordinarily gifted young scientists and engineers represent the best in our country," President Clinton said. "Through their talent, ability, and dedication, they will quicken the pace of discovery and put science and technology to work advancing the human condition as never before."

Chang's work involves using sophisticated technology to try to determine the structure of the biological mechanisms that are the primary cause of bacterial multi-drug resistance. Known as membrane protein pumps, these transporters, which are embedded in cell membranes, "pump" viable drugs out of and away from the cell before they get a chance to have any effect. In his words, Chang's goal is "to figure out the atomic structure of this pump to see if we can develop ways to block its action and return to already-existing drugs their efficacy against everything from tropical diseases to cancer."

There is currently a dearth of new classes of anti-bacterials, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), and the cost of new drug development is prohibitive: on average, research and development of anti-infective drugs takes 15 to 20 years and can cost more than $500 million. Said David Heymann, executive director of WHO's communicable disease program, "We are literally in a race against time to bring levels of infectious disease down worldwide, before the diseases wear the drugs down first."

Chang is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of Pennsylvania with B.S. and Masters degrees in biophysics, as well as a Ph.D. from its Department of Structural Biology and Molecular Biophysics. He completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the California Institute of Technology. He is the recipient of numerous awards and honors, including a designation as a university scholar, University of Pennsylvania; Saul Winegrad, M.D. Award for Outstanding Doctoral Dissertation; and an NIH Postdoctoral Fellowship.

As a Presidential Early Career Award honoree, Chang receives up to a five-year research grant to further his scientific investigations. The Federal agencies involved include: the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Energy, Health and Human Services, Veterans Affairs, NASA, and the National Science Foundation.

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