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Faculty member earns Pioneer Award

Dr. Alexander J. Travis, associate professor of reproductive biology at the College of Veterinary Medicine, was presented with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director's Pioneer Award at the Fifth Annual NIH Director's Pioneer Award Symposium on September 24. The award supports individual scientists of exceptional creativity who propose pioneering and possibly transforming approaches to major challenges in biomedical and behavioral research, according to the NIH's web site.

Travis was recognized for his work developing an energy-producing platform that could be used to power a variety of implantable medical devices. Based on the design of the sperm tail, this technology involves attaching metabolic enzymes to a solid support.  If the entire pathway can be completed on the device, it could use freely-circulating glucose as fuel. These hypothetical devices could be used to deliver drugs precisely where they are needed in a patient's body, for example, such as at a tumor.

"We're borrowing the sperm's strategy for locomotion," said Travis, who conceived the idea after noting that many proteins on the sperm's tail are tied down to solid structures within the cell, but still function. By modifying the targeting domains responsible for this binding, they manipulated the first two proteins of the pathway to stick to a single man-made surface and demonstrated that they functioned in series. "We believe it is one of the first, if not the first, example of building sequential steps of any biological pathway on a manmade surface."

Chemistry and Biology published this information in the issue released on September 25.



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