New Innovator in the Chemistry Department receives NIH Award

Assistant Professor of Chemistry David Spiegel recently received a National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director’s New Innovator Award of $1.5 million to fund his research on bifunctional small molecules. The NIH developed this award to help new scientists begin their research careers; unlike most grants, it is awarded for research ideas and requires no preliminary data.

Spiegel began thinking about bifunctional molecules during medical school while learning about the A and B blood group antigens. He wondered if it would be possible to manipulate antibodies against these antigens to target cancerous or bacterial cells.

However, his research does not involve synthesis of the large antigen molecules that define blood type. Instead, Spiegel plans to exploit antibodies already present in the human bloodstream that target the small molecule dinitrophenyl (DNP). He hopes to synthesize small molecules with two functional sites: one that recruits the anti-DNP antibody and another that targets a specific disease-causing cell type.

These bifunctional molecules could then recruit the immune system to destroy those specific agents. Spiegel described the process as hijacking the normal immune response to target and kill cells. He plans to collaborate with researchers studying HIV and multiple myeloma (a form of cancer) in hopes of producing new treatment techniques for the two diseases as well as a broad range of other health problems.

Emanuel, J.R. (2007). Yale chemist receives NIH young investigator award for antibody targeting. Retrieved November 15, 2007, from the Yale University Office of Public Affairs Web site: