Antibodies initiative receives $500,000 NSF grant

Photo of Thomas WoodA joint research initiative between Texas A&M University and The Pennsylvania State University aimed at designing antibodies for novel cancer treatments using computer algorithms to guide the creation of new proteins has been awarded more than a half-million dollars by the National Science Foundation (NSF).

The project, “An Integrated Approach for Computationally Designing and Experimentally Characterizing Fully-Human Antibodies,” has received $550,670 from the NSF and is led by Thomas Wood, professor in the Artie McFerrin Department of Chemical Engineering and Penn State Professor Costas D. Maranas.

This activity, Wood says, will introduce a computational workflow for the discovery of antibody-based therapeutics, one of the fastest growing segments of the industry.

Antibodies, which are Y-shaped, versatile protein structures, are an excellent target for computational design due to their function that is typically limited to binding, not catalysis, and the availability of well-established rules linking their primary sequence to structure, he notes.

“The rational design of antibodies has proven to be an extremely challenging problem requiring significant advances in computational algorithms and modeling techniques,” Wood says. “We believe that the proposed research will make contributions towards advancing the current state of the art at multiple modeling/computational fronts.”

At Texas A&M, Wood's research is focused on metabolic engineering and protein engineering. Specifically, his interests include evolving bidirectional hydrogenases for hydrogen production; discovering the genetic basis of biofilm formation and of biofilm inhibitors; evolving oxygenases for bioremediation and green chemical synthesis; and metabolic engineering of bacteria for the degradation of chlorinated ethenes and other pollutants.