UMMS student receives Herbert Tabor Young Investigator Award

By Ellie Castano and Bryan Goodchild

UMass Medical School Communications

August 09, 2011

Keith Romano has spent the last five years in the lab of Celia Schiffer, PhD, professor of biochemistry & molecular pharmacology, seeking a better understanding of the molecular basis of drug resistance and pursuing his MD/PhD. He was recently recognized for the promise of his work by the Journal of Biological Chemistry, which named him a Herbert Tabor Young Investigator Award winner.

The awards are presented to promising young researchers at meetings of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and are meant to honor Herbert Tabor's invaluable contributions to the journal and to science as a whole, and recognize the innovators and achievers among new researchers who exemplify Dr. Tabor’s values of creativity and scientific excellence. Dr. Tabor is a faculty member of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive Diseases, and has been editor-in-chief of the journal since 1971. The awardees are chosen by the associate editors.

“It is a great honor to receive the JBC/Herbert Tabor Young Investigator Award; and also incredibly humbling, as I aspire to achieve but a fraction of Dr. Tabor's successes throughout his long and rich career as a scientist, editor and mentor,” said Romano. “The prestige of this award—in my view—derives from its namesake, and we should celebrate Dr. Tabor for his extensive impact on high-quality biochemistry and molecular biology over the past 70 years.”

“Hepatitis C virus afflicts an estimated 3 percent of the global population, and antiviral therapies are often intolerable and ineffective,” said Romano. The severe drug side effects of combination therapy, including flu-like symptoms, depression and anemia, limit patient adherence to treatment regimens, which can lead to drug resistance.“Thus, drug resistance challenges the long-term effectiveness of antiviral therapies.”

Romano seeks to understand the molecular basis of drug resistance, which is essential for developing future generation drugs that retain potency against a broad spectrum of Hepatitis C virus strains. “My research aims to define the molecular basis of drug resistance against Hepatitis C virus protease inhibitors. Ultimately, I hope that my findings facilitate a more rational evaluation of novel drug candidates, and provide additional approaches for designing more efficacious and tolerable anti-HCV therapies in the future,” concluded Romano.

Related link:

JBC/Herb Tabor Young Investigator Award Program