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STANFORD -- Chaitan S. Khosla, assistant professor of chemical engineering, is one of 20 young scientists and engineers who have been awarded five-year, $500,000 fellowships from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation this year. The award is designed to support the research of young faculty members without any of the restrictions that normally accompany specific government or foundation grants.
Khosla uses genetic engineering to imitate the way in which nature makes an important class of biological molecules called polyketides, which are found in a number of antibiotic, immunosuppressant and anti-cancer drugs. When drug companies begin looking for a new drug and have no place to start, they begin by screening thousands of natural products for a “lead” molecule that exhibits some of the desired activity. Khosla's approach is an alternative to the traditional method that could develop into a better way to identify some kinds of lead molecules. He has used it successfully to create a number of novel polyketides that have not been seen in nature.
The Packard Foundation has now awarded 140 of these fellowships, worth $70 million in all, to researchers in fields as varied as molecular genetics, astrophysics, electronics, aerodynamics, computer vision and paleontology. Khosla is the sixth Stanford scientist to receive this award. Lynn Orr, dean of earth sciences, chairs the 11-member committee that selects fellowship recipients.
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