William H. Terry Sr. Professor,
Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar
This award recognizes the researcher behind a unique, creative and innovative discovery that has made an impact outside the university setting. This year’s recipient is Vasu Nair.
Nair, William H. Terry Sr. Professor, Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar, head of the department of pharmaceutical and biomedical sciences, and director of the UGA Center for Drug Discovery, has worked for more than a decade to bring HIV integrase inhibitors to the point where they could be licensed. Drug developers, including Nair, had been targeting HIV integrase for years, without success. But when Nair came to UGA’s College of Pharmacy in 2002, he began working on an entirely new class of HIV integrase inhibitors. Nair and his team came to understand that HIV integrase recognized certain constituents of human DNA that made it “want” to incorporate into that chemical chain. Because the strongest of these attractions was to a class of DNA components called pyrimidine, researchers built their inhibitor around a pyrimidine scaffold, which serves as a lure for HIV integrase in order to trap it. The potent anti-HIV activity and pre-clinical data suggest that the inhibitor has significant potential as an anti-HIV agent.