The goal of the award is to stimulate highly innovative research and support promising new investigators. Aller’s winning project, “Streamlined Structures of Human Integral Membrane Proteins at Atomic Resolution,” focuses on achieving high-resolution structures of human proteins that reside in the lipid bilayer of cells.
Up to this point, the structures of only a handful of human membrane proteins have been solved, and even fewer are closely associated with disease or have high therapeutic targeting value. Roughly one-third of all FDA-approved drugs target this general class, yet drugs are usually discovered through very expensive high-throughput screening.
Aller’s group plans to “throw structural information into the mix,” and accelerate the process by allowing structure-based drug design and maybe even skipping high-throughput screening altogether. The award goes into effect on Sept. 30.
National Institutes of Health Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., announced all award winners at the seventh annual NIH Director’s Pioneer Award Symposium in Bethesda, Md., on Sept. 20, 2011.
Aller joined the UAB faculty in 2009 and also has an appointment in the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center.