UB Professor Studies Ways to "Package" Proteins, Making them More Stable for Shipping as Drug Products

Work also would have applications in personal-care and cosmetics industries

Release Date: June 25, 2004 This content is archived.


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Jeffrey R. Errington has received a prestigious James D. Watson Investigator grant from the New York State Office of Science, Technology and Academic Research (NYSTAR)

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- A University at Buffalo assistant professor is exploring ways to preserve proteins and other biomaterials so that they can be more widely used, primarily in pharmaceutical products, thanks to a $200,000 James D. Watson Investigator grant from the New York State Office of Science, Technology and Academic Research (NYSTAR).

Jeffrey R. Errington, Ph.D., assistant professor of chemical and biological engineering in the University at Buffalo School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, is one of 10 scientists throughout the state who were awarded grants under the $2 million program.

The Watson initiative is part of the $225 million Generating Employment through New York State Science (Gen*NY*sis) program, created to maximize the potential of life-sciences research conducted at New York's research institutions.

"Dr. Errington's efforts to develop new innovations regarding the use of biomaterials will have a significant impact on the creation of pharmaceutical drug formulations and will further strengthen UB's role as a life science research powerhouse," said Russell W. Bessette, M.D., NYSTAR executive director.

Errington's research involves investigating the properties of complex fluids and biological systems from a microscopic perspective.

Using the powerful supercomputers in UB's Center for Computational Research, he and his students attempt to understand the behavior of a system in terms of its underlying molecular-level details. This information is used subsequently to develop novel materials, improve existing products and generate new technologies.

Errington is applying that research to develop methods to preserve biomaterials in order to improve the design of pharmaceutical formulations. The work also is applicable to protein formulations in the personal-care and cosmetics industries.

Proteins, Errington explained, increasingly are becoming important ingredients in pharmaceutical formulations.

"The problem is that many of them are inherently unstable," he explained, and that makes them difficult and expensive to store and ship.

Proteins and other biomaterials are typically generated in solution.

"If you take that aqueous solution and ship it somewhere, the natural fluctuations in temperature that the protein is exposed to on the way may cause it to unfold or degrade," Errington continued. "By the time the drug gets to the patient, it's often no longer useful."

Errington's group is focusing on finding ways to temporarily trap proteins in a solid state so that they can survive exposure to a range of atmospheric conditions.

The researchers are exploring ways to encapsulate proteins in novel mixtures of polymers and sugars that form a glassy matrix that is largely devoid of water.

"We are trying to surround the protein, on a molecular level, with a rigid matrix that prevents it from being able to unfold," said Errington. "The idea is to keep the protein in its native state the entire time."

Once the products arrive at their destinations, they could be reconstituted using a simple solution and administered to patients, he said.

A 1995 graduate of UB, Errington has been a faculty member at the university since 2001. He received his doctorate from Cornell University in 1999 and served as a post-doctoral researcher at Princeton University.

In 2003, Errington was awarded a prestigious National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development Award, which, according to the NSF, recognizes and supports the early career-development activities of teacher-scholars who are expected to become the academic leaders of the 21st century.

As a UB undergraduate, Errington studied chemical engineering in the department in which he is now an assistant professor.

"We're very proud of him," said Carl Lund, Ph.D., professor and chair of the UB Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering. "We're doubly proud that he came out of our program as an undergraduate and now is back, bringing positive attention to our department."

Errington lives in Williamsville.

The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public university, the largest and most comprehensive campus in the State University of New York.

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