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RNA Institute Director Paul Agris Pursues Therapeutics Against Drug-Resistant Bacteria with $3.3 Million in Federal Aid

The RNA Institute Director Paul Agris sees the Institute's goal as countering viral and bacterial infections and their propensity to evolve drug resistance, while minimizing side effects in human beings. (Photo by Mark Schmidt)

ALBANY, N.Y. (October 27, 2014) — More than $3.3 million in new federal aid has been awarded to Paul Agris, Ph.D., director of The RNA Institute at the University at Albany, for continued collaborative research on RNA-based antibiotics targeted at drug-resistant bacteria and the molecular engineering of cancer therapies.

Agris’ recent awards include two totaling more than $2.6 million from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH); the first, a $2.1 million grant from NIH’s National Institute of General Medical Sciences to study new RNA-based broad spectrum antibiotics for drug-resistant bacteria; the second, a $570,000 grant from NSF Chemistry of Life Processes for molecular engineering of a novel and extraordinarily useful cancer therapeutic targeting RNA.

Agris sees the development of RNA-based therapeutics as essential in treatments for many of the most recent and hard-to-contain RNA-based viruses, such as Ebola and Enterovirus 68, as well as drug-resistant bacteria. “Our goal is to counter viral and bacterial infections and their propensity to evolve drug resistance, while minimizing side effects in humans,” he said.

In July, Agris was also named a State University of New York (SUNY) Health Network for Excellence awardee for his investigations into innovative treatments for the drug-resistant bacteria, MRSA, which has been responsible for causing infection, particularly in hospitals, community health care centers and senior and nursing homes.

This research has led to inventorship of three patent applications — two owned by SUNY, the other, based on his strategy of therapeutics against drug-resistant HIV, owned by Sirga Advanced Biopharma, Inc., a company he founded in Research Triangle Park, NC.

Agris’ work in the RNA research field is reflected in his recent keynote appearance last month at the international tRNA conference, held this year in Greece. With a half-century of research behind Agris and some 160 peer-reviewed publications, including four this year, he looks to many more years of research productivity.

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