COSAM News Articles 2019 August Dr. Monika Raj Receives $1.9 Million Grant for Ground-Breaking Enzyme Research

Dr. Monika Raj Receives $1.9 Million Grant for Ground-Breaking Enzyme Research

Published: 08/27/2019

By: Maria Gebhardt

How do enzymes spread diseases like cancer? Scientists know that enzymes create a reaction that causes cancer, but knowing where they exist in the body is still unclear.

What if a researcher was working to determine the role of this unexplored area and to create a targeted-approach for the next-phase of drug development?

Dr. Monika Raj in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry is exactly doing that.

Dr. Monika Raj

In her latest project, Dr. Raj is exploring an area of peptide chemistry to research enzymes that cause diseases including cancer. She has received $1.9 million, five-year Maximizing Investigators' Research Award (MIRA) (R35) from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Institute of General Medical Sciences.

"Monika Raj has already made a significant impact on research and funding levels in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry," explained Dr. Curtis Shannon, Chair of the Department. "In only two years, I have seen her work gain international recognition and I am certain that this NIH grant will propel her research to new heights. I'm looking forward to seeing the new discoveries she and her group produce using these resources." 

Monika is very passionate about her research since she has seen her brother suffer from cancer. When cancer strikes someone you love, only one thing you can do is pray. Monika prayed when she learned her brother was diagnosed with cancer, she prayed when her brother’s treatment proved ineffective and she prayed when her brother lost his battle with cancer.

Today, she is using her experience to revolutionize the way we research, diagnose, and treat cancer at Auburn University. Her work has already led to numerous breakthroughs including creation and launch of new cyclic peptide inhibitors for the cancer research community.

In 2018, Dr. Raj had received $650,000 CAREER award from the National Science Foundation and was a recipient of the 2019 Early Career Lectureship from the American Peptide Society. With this MIRA award, Dr Raj has a total of nearly $3 million in funds for research in her lab. Thus giving her the opportunity to strengthen her team of researchers in the Raj Lab, focus on new diagnostic tools for early detection of cancer and develop new treatments to cure cancer.

Dr. Raj’s research is one of hope. “I believe that over the next three years more advancement in cancer diagnosis and treatment will occur than in the past 100 years, and that my research can help achieve these goals,” she added.

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