School of Medicine scientist wins National Institutes of Health New Innovator Award

Grant will allow exploration of new methods designed to treat cancer

taylor-newsDerek Taylor, assistant professor in the Department of Pharmacology at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, has been awarded the prestigious New Innovator Award by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The NIH awards this $2.38 million grant to scientists proposing highly innovative approaches to major contemporary challenges in biomedical research, under the agency’s High Risk-High Reward program.

Taylor, a member of the Case Comprehensive Cancer Center and a Mt. Sinai Scholar, received the New Innovator Award to support his research on the induction of cancer cell death by selective DNA misincorporation.

Taylor’s laboratory studies chromosome stability. His lab is particularly interested in telomeres, the specialized structures that cap and protect the ends of chromosomes. His research also focuses on a special enzyme, telomerase, which interacts with telomeres to contribute to chromosome stability. As telomerase is upregulated in the majority of human cancers, the Taylor lab is investigating how to use its unique mechanism to deliver toxic compounds to cancer cells selectively.

“Only the absolute top-notch scientists compete for this award, which undergoes intense review by leaders at the NIH,” stated Stanton Gerson, the Asa and Patricia Shiverick- Jane Shiverick (Tripp) Professor of Hematological Oncology, director of the Case Comprehensive Cancer Center and director of the Seidman Cancer Center at University Hospitals Case Medical Center. “Derek continues to excel as a cancer scientist at Case Western Reserve. I have been impressed with his continuous innovative approaches to fundamental questions in cancer. Telomere research is critical since this process is central to how cancer continues to grow and outlive normal cells.”

Taylor’s research will use telomerase as a “Trojan horse” to deliver toxic drugs exclusively to cancer cells.  The results obtained from the proposed experiments could lead to an entirely new, and more successful, method for treating a diverse set of human cancers.

The New Innovator Award initiative, established in 2007, supports investigators who are within 10 years of their terminal degree or clinical residency, but who have not yet received a Research Project Grant (R01) or equivalent NIH grant, to conduct exceptionally innovative research.

Taylor is the only scientist in Ohio to receive a 2013 New Innovator Award.