November 20, 2008

Purdue researchers on Howard Hughes Medical Institute teams

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Three Purdue University researchers are on teams that will study treatments for glaucoma and neurodegenerative disorders, such as Parkinson's disease, with support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

Each of the eight teams receiving a Collaborative Innovation Award is headed by a HHMI investigator who will work with scientists outside the institute. This is the first time HHMI has provided direct funding for specific research projects.

Pedro Irazoqui
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Pedro Irazoqui, assistant professor of biomedical engineering, and William Chappell, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, will work with HHMI investigator Simon John of the Jackson Laboratory on glaucoma research.

They will work to develop an ultra-miniature, pressure-sensing device that can be implanted into the eyes of mice. Such a device would permit scientists to monitor intraocular pressure around the clock to learn more about how glaucoma progresses.

If successful, the device could lead to a prototype for use in monitoring intraocular pressure and perhaps even blood pressure in humans.

William Chappell
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Jean-Christophe Rochet, associate professor of medicinal chemistry and molecular pharmacology, is on a five-person team headed by Susan Lindquist of the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research. They will work toward finding new, personalized treatments for neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson's disease.

The team will study gene function in yeast, worms and mice; integrate genetic data from studies of people with Parkinson's; and use new stem-cell technology to find cellular and animal models for use in screening new drug therapies.

Rochet's research probes how the buildup of misfolded proteins damages nerve cells.

Jean-Christophe Rochet
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HHMI plans to provide a total of $10 million a year for four years to the teams. Each team will receive between $700,000 and $1.4 million a year.

Howard Hughes Medical Institute, of Chevy Chase, Md., is a philanthropic organization that promotes biomedical research and science education.

More information on the HHMI Collaborative Innovation Awards and the individual teams is available online at .

Writer: Judith Barra Austin, (765) 494-2432,

Source: Jennifer Michalowski, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, (301) 215-8576,

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;

Note to Journalists: Journalists wishing to speak with Pedro Irazoqui, William Chappell or Jean-Christophe Rochet can contact Judith Austin, Purdue News Service, at (765) 494-2432, Irazoqui is pronounced Ear-a-THOkee.

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