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New research expected to help understand human diseases

Researchers in Western New York are working on a project that could assess how humans develop disease. A major grant was recently awarded by the National Science Foundation to assistant professor of Biology at SUNY Fredonia, Scott Ferguson.

The funding will allow researchers to work on a project entitled Genetic Analysis of Gurken Translational Control on Drosophila, that could assess how humans develop disease.  

It might seem like a strange way to spend $250,000, but Ferguson says the Research in Undergraduate Institutions grant is going to help conduct three years of genetic analysis on fruit flies. He says he choose flies, because they’re a model to understand genes in human cancer cells.  

“The objective is to be able to make inroads and get some insight about diseases that are affected by this receptor and growth factor and if we understand it in flies hopefully we can translate what we know to human disease and develop inhibitors,” said Ferguson.

Ferguson says the research is only in the preliminary stages. He says the funding will also give Fredonia undergraduate students an opportunity to collaborate with Roswell Park Cancer Institute for whole-genome DNA sequencing and bioinformatics analysis.

“It also enables them [students] to stay at Fredonia over the summer and have it be their summer job, where they’re going to stay here and they’re going to get a stipend to support their expenses and we’ll make some real inroads where they can focus full-time on the research,”  said Ferguson.

The grant is the largest award ever made to a Fredonia Biology faculty member. It’s expected to leverage other grants for the University.