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Dartmouth Engineer earns top ranking from CFF

Mar 04, 2011

CONTACT: Catharine Lamm

Tom Scanlon
Tom Scanlon

Tom Scanlon, Research Associate at Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth, was recently named the third annual Carol Basbaum Memorial Research Fellow by the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation (CFF). Each year, the Basbaum distinction is given to the single highest scoring CFF research fellowship applicant in honor of Carol Basbaum, a dedicated teacher and researcher of cystic fibrosis pathobiology.

Scanlon received his bachelor's degree in biology and then focused on steroid hormone receptors for his Ph.D. research at McGill University in Montreal. He came to Thayer School in October of 2007 and joined Assistant Professor of Engineering Karl Griswold in his investigation of enzyme therapeutics for the treatment of complications associated with cystic fibrosis.

"I've only been working on the cystic fibrosis project since October," said Scanlon, "but my background investigating the structure-function relationship of the Androgen Receptor made me well-suited for a protein engineering project. ... This fellowship fit right in with our research, and the extra recognition of the Basbaum award was a nice surprise. Karl was integral in helping me construct the application and cover all the details."

Scanlon and Griswold are working in conjunction with the Dartmouth Cystic Fibrosis Research Development Program led by Bruce Stanton, Professor of Physiology at Dartmouth Medical School.

"Bruce has been amazing in helping to connect us to the [cystic fibrosis] research community," said Griswold. "It would have been much more difficult to get people excited about our work without his help. ... That ability to collaborate easily across campus—that's why I came to Dartmouth."

The CFF fellowship will span two years and provide $86,100 for Scanlon's research investigating new therapeutics for cystic fibrosis (CF). The lungs of CF patients often become infected with bacteria that produce a particular acidic biopolymer known to aggravate the disease. Scanlon and his colleagues are using protein engineering techniques to create a humanized enzyme designed to degrade this biopolymer and reduce its harmful effects. The immune-system-friendly enzyme could then serve as the basis for development of a novel protein therapeutic for the treatment of bacterial infections of CF-affected lungs.

About Cystic Fibrosis

Cystic fibrosis is an inherited chronic disease that affects the lungs and digestive system of about 30,000 children and adults in the United States (70,000 worldwide). A defective gene and its protein product cause the body to produce unusually thick, sticky mucus that:

  • clogs the lungs and leads to life-threatening lung infections; and
  • obstructs the pancreas and stops natural enzymes from helping the body break down and absorb food.

In the 1950s, few children with cystic fibrosis lived to attend elementary school. Today, advances in research and medical treatments have further enhanced and extended life for children and adults with CF. Many people with the disease can now expect to live into their 30s, 40s and beyond.

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