Donald receives $3M Established Investigator MIRA award


Bruce Donald, PhD, James B. Duke Distinguished Professor of Computer Science, Mathematics and Chemistry and professor of biochemistry, has received a five year, $2.9 million Established Investigator Maximizing Investigators’ Research Award (MIRA) from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) for computational and experimental studies of protein structure and design. This grant is an R35 Outstanding Investigator Award, to provide long term support to an experienced investigator with an outstanding record of research productivity. This support is intended to encourage PIs to embark on long-term projects of unusual potential.

“This project concentrates on two interlocking themes: protein structure and design,” says Donald. “The design of new therapeutics can alleviate mortality, morbidity, and human suffering.”

With this grant, the Donald lab will focus on determining protein structure and dynamics in systems of biomedical importance. They will design proteins, inhibitors and their molecular interactions to predict and help overcome drug resistance. Much of this work will not only utilize but also help enhance OSPREY, an open source suite of programs for computational structure-based design developed by the Donald lab.

“We want to anticipate drug resistance,” Donald said, “like a chess player, if we know what the opponent might do, we can block it ahead of time.” But instead of trying to stay just one step ahead, he wants to be able to predict resistance several steps away, well before drug resistance can become a problem for patients.