Dr. Martin Matzuk, professor and director of the Center for Drug Discovery at Baylor College of Medicine, and Drs. Barry Morgan and Gwenn Hansen, professor and associate professor, respectively, and co-leaders of the DNA-encoded chemistry technology platform in the Center for Drug Discovery, have been awarded a $2.8 million grant by the Welch Foundation to support their work toward discovering next-generation drugs.

The grant to Matzuk, who also holds the Stuart A. Wallace Chair and Robert L. Moody, Sr. Chair in pathology & immunology at Baylor, and Morgan and Hansen will be used over the next two years with the possibility for an extension up to four years. The goal of the work is to generate drug-like small molecules to study disease pathways and to provide the basis for creating new medicines.

"The Welch Foundation has shown great support to Baylor and many of the innovative research projects our faculty lead,” said Dr. Paul Klotman, president, CEO and executive dean at Baylor. “The work by members of the Center for Drug Discovery under the leadership of Dr. Matzuk will not only bring about research advances but benefit our patients as well.”

The preclinical phase of drug discovery is usually time consuming and can cost in the millions. To address these problems, the Center for Drug Discovery will develop broad-based innovation in DNA-encoded chemical library synthesis. In addition to Morgan and Hansen, who will spearhead these studies, the team is joined by co-investigators Dr. Damian Young, assistant director of the Center for Drug Discovery, and Dr. Conrad Santini, assistant professor in the Center for Drug Discovery. The team will design, assemble and evaluate a novel collection of billions of DNA-encoded drug-like molecules to identify family compounds that possess physiochemical characteristics well suited for rapid progression to preclinical evaluation. These preclinical drug candidates will be collected and available to physicians.

“We have confidence that our technology will empower academic biologists to translate their fundamental science to better understand disease pathways and lay the foundation for the discovery of next-generation medicines,” Matzuk said.

Since founding in 1954, the Welch Foundation has supported basic chemical research in Texas through grants to researchers at colleges and universities, support for chemistry departments at smaller colleges and universities, funding of endowed chairs, an annual chemical research conference and a summer program for high school students, among other initiatives. Based in Houston, it is the oldest and largest private funding sources for basic chemical research. Since 1958, the foundation has supported Baylor College of Medicine with gifts and grants totaling more than $25 million.