February 28, 2012

Nancy Solomon

SLU Virologist Govindaswamy Chinnadurai to Receive an Outstanding Scientist Award

ST. LOUIS - Govindaswamy Chinnadurai, Ph.D., professor at SLU's Institute for Molecular Virology, will receive the Fellows Award, which recognizes a distinguished individual for outstanding achievement in science, from the Academy of Science of St. Louis.

Govindaswamy Chinnadurai, Ph.D.

The award is one of eight that will be presented on April 19 at the 18th annual Outstanding Scientist Awards dinner, which honors top scientists and engineers in the St. Louis region.

Chinnadurai has made ground-breaking contributions to the study of cancer, leading to a greater understanding of how normal cells are converted into cancer cells. With research consistently funded by the National Institutes of Health, Chinnadurai has invested 38 years in understanding the molecular mechanisms that human adenoviruses use to replicate in infected cells and to transform normal cells into cancerous ones.

"An important rule in research is to stick with one or two intellectual problems and see where they take you," Chinnadurai said. "That's what I've done and it's taken us closer than ever to finding a cure for cancer."

New treatments, targets

His basic science discoveries have opened avenues for others to develop treatments for cancer, including new targets for cancer-fighting therapies and a new generation of anti-cancer drugs that are in clinical trials.

Through his studies on viral genes, he discovered the first member of a family of cellular proteins known as the "BH3-only" family proteins that trigger cell death (apoptosis) in response to treatment with agents such as anti-cancer agents. Molecules that mimic the activity of such proteins are currently being investigated as novel anti-cancer agents. He also discovered, contrary to expectation, that certain viral oncogenes (genes that can cause cancer), such as the adenovirus E1A oncogene, can suppress cancerous transformation of animal cells. By studying mechanisms by which such viral genes accomplish this feat, his group is discovering novel approaches to inhibit cancer growth and metastasis.

His research papers have been widely cited, testifying to the pervasive impact of his discoveries on modern cell and molecular biology. In addition, he has mentored many medical students, graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and visiting scientists from around the world - extending the reach of his influence beyond his lab.

Chinnadurai joined SLU in 1974, after receiving his Ph.D. in molecular biology from the University of Texas, Dallas.

In good standing

He joins other SLU faculty members who have received the Fellows award including his colleague at the Institute for Molecular Virology, Duane Grandgenett, Ph.D., who was recognized last year. Raymond Slavin, M.D., professor of internal medicine and molecular microbiology and immunology at Saint Louis University School of Medicine, and Robert Belshe, M.D., director of the Saint Louis University Center for Vaccine Development, also had been recognized with the Fellows award.

The Academy of Science of St. Louis will honor other leaders in science with Lifetime Achievement, Science Leadership, Trustees, James B. Eads award for engineering and technology, Interdisciplinary, Innovation and Educator Awards at the Outstanding Scientist dinner.

The Academy of Science of St. Louis is an independent science organization that has connected science and the public for more than 150 years.

Established in 1836, Saint Louis University School of Medicine has the distinction of awarding the first medical degree west of the Mississippi River. The school educates physicians and biomedical scientists, conducts medical research, and provides health care on a local, national and international level. Research at the school seeks new cures and treatments in five key areas: cancer, infectious disease, liver disease, aging and brain disease and heart/lung disease.

Read about the Outstanding St. Louis Scientists Awards.
Learn about the Saint Louis University Cancer Center.
Find out about Dr. Chinnadurai's research.

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