Seeking to better understand the connection between a novel protein in the body and certain cancers, Aaron Muth, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Pharmaceutical Sciences, College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, was recently awarded a $492,000 National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant for his proposal, “Developing Chemical Probes to Decipher Gankyrin Biology.”
The proposal focuses on making chemical compounds that are used to study gankyrin, a protein that plays a major role in the onset and development of various forms of cancer.
“It is a mix of excitement and relief,” said Dr. Muth on learning about the grant. “I am excited to have the funds to push our research to the next level, and I am relieved, because it was 13 months of waiting to hear a decision on the grant application.”
Gankyrin is an understudied protein that is overexpressed in numerous cancer types. “It appears to play a key role in regulating cancer proliferation and metastasis,” he explained. “Hopefully, this work will allow others to better study this protein and allow for future work in developing potential drugs for treating certain cancer types.”
While Dr. Muth came to St. John’s in 2016, his passion for cancer research is fueled by a loss he experienced as a teenager. “My mom died from cancer when I was 18 years old, and I wanted to find a way to contribute toward understanding and treating cancer,” he explained. “This motivates me to this day, as I hope I can contribute to the cancer research world in a meaningful way.”
“Dr. Muth is a remarkable researcher, teacher, and colleague,” said Russell J. DiGate, Ph.D., Dean, College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. “His contributions to the field of pharmaceutical sciences are an inspiration to faculty and students alike and his NIH grant is well-deserved. I am proud to have him as a member of our faculty.”
The work of both graduate and undergraduates students has been vital to Dr. Muth’s research. “Currently, I have three Ph.D. students working in my lab, and they have been instrumental in generating the preliminary data needed for this grant to be funded,” he said. “Graduate students have been involved in the design and synthesis of chemical probes that are a part of this research. I have been fortunate enough to have 18 undergraduates work in my lab and contribute to various aspects of this project.”
While Dr. Muth is thrilled to have earned an NIH grant, he finds the research itself gratifying on two fronts. “There really are two extremely rewarding aspects of my research—working with students and making discoveries,” he said. “It is exciting to discover something new and contribute to the understanding of a particular disease. It is just as wonderful to watch students develop their skills as scientists and realize that they are contributing something important to the scientific community.”