Vol 10. Issue 26 / September 13, 2010

Scripps Research Appoints Douglas Kojetin to Florida Faculty

By Eric Sauter

The Scripps Research Institute has appointed Douglas J. Kojetin as an assistant professor in the Department of Molecular Therapeutics.

Kojetin, who is 33, was a research associate in the laboratory of Thomas Burris, a professor in the Department of Molecular Therapeutics at Scripps Florida, before launching his own lab in July. He lives in Jupiter.

"I'm personally gratified that Doug is joining our faculty," said Burris. "As a researcher in my lab, he was not only an outstanding scientist but he had the talent and insight to build a strong scientific platform to advance his work. His study of proteins is innovative, and a good fit within the department. He will be a terrific asset to the team of researchers working in that area."

A major focus of Kojetin's new laboratory will be to understand how the structure and atomic motion (dynamics) of proteins contribute to their biological function. Modulation of a protein's conformation or shape represents a potential avenue for drug discovery. Kojetin will be concentrating on what are known as nuclear receptor transcription factor proteins, important drug discovery targets for a variety of human diseases, including cancer and metabolic conditions such as type II diabetes.

Kojetin received his bachelor's degree in chemistry from Purdue University and his Ph.D. in biochemistry from North Carolina State University. He received the A.R. Main-Becton Dickinson Award for outstanding graduate achievement in 2003, and the American Foundation for Aging Research award that same year.

As a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Cincinnati, he was awarded a National Research Service Award from the National Institutes of Health.

Florida State Grant

Earlier this year, Kojetin was awarded a $400,000, three-year grant from the James and Esther King Biomedical Research Program, part of the Florida Biomedical Research Program. The highly competitive grants are for innovative research into the prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and/or cure of cancer and tobacco-related diseases. Funding comes primarily from taxes collected from the sale of tobacco products.

With this grant, we're able to look at a specific nuclear receptor protein called PPARγ, which is an important drug target for metabolic diseases," Kojetin said. "Using a number of technologies, including nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy, we will be able to determine how different ligands that bind to this particular receptor change its structure and dynamics. Our goal is to understand how these changes contribute to the recruitment of different co-regulator proteins and the receptor's overall function."

Drugs that target PPARγ are effective therapeutics for type II diabetes. Adverse side effects, however, limit their use and open the door to the development of newer and potentially less problematic compounds. The work builds on research from Chair of the Department of Molecular Therapeutics Patrick Griffin's lab (see "Scripps Research and Dana Farber Scientists Uncover Novel Anti-Diabetes Mechanism")

"Hopefully, our work will help in the development of drugs targeting this receptor," Kojetin said.





Send comments to: mikaono[at]scripps.edu



A major focus of Assistant Professor Douglas Kojetin's laboratory will be to understand how the structure and atomic motion (dynamics) of proteins contribute to their biological function. (Photo by James McEntee.)