Campus News

$700,000 grant will be used to study vertebrate growth

The American Cancer Society has awarded a research grant for $700,000 to a faculty member in UGA’s Franklin College of Arts and Sciences to study the genetic control of the earliest stages of vertebrate development.

The grant is to Scott Dougan, an assistant professor in the department of cellular biology and past Georgia Cancer Coalition Distinguished Scientist.

“The transfer of a normal cell to a cancer cell is a complex process,” said Dougan, “and we need to know how these processes occur at the molecular level. Our long-term goal is to understand how cells in vertebrate embryos communicate and interpret information, using the zebrafish as a model animal.”

Zebrafish are prolific—a single female can produce 200 or more eggs per week—and their embryos are transparent and grow fast.

Dougan supervises a large new laboratory in the Paul D. Coverdell Center for Biomedical and Health Sciences specifically designed for zebrafish.

Using the grant from the Cancer Society, Dougan and his colleagues hope to discover a deeper understanding of cell differentiation that could lead to a new way to control and possibly reverse the process that occurs in many cancers. The grant will be made over four years.

“Our hope is that this will permit the development of new targeted cancer therapies and diagnostic tests,” said Dougan.

Dougan earned his Ph.D. in developmental genetics from Rockefeller University in 1995 and has been a member of the UGA faculty since 2001. He was co-organizer of the 2005 Southeast Regional meeting of the Society of Developmental Biology held in Athens and served as a Georgia Cancer Coalition Distinguished Scientist from 2001–2006.

Laurie Anderson in the Office of Vice President for Research contributed to this article.