HU student wins Kaye Prize

Nir Qvit has developed a drug-delivery method by designing Lego-like molecules to halt cell growth.

legos 88 (photo credit: )
legos 88
(photo credit: )
Hebrew University doctoral student Nir Qvit has been awarded a Kaye Prize for Innovation for his development of a drug-delivery method that delivers medicine to targeted cells by designing specific Lego-like molecular structures called SIB (small integrated building blocks). Qvit, 34, will receive the prestigious science prize along with other winners Tuesday, during next week's 69th meeting of the university's board of governors. Qvit has demonstrated that it is possible to significantly increase the efficiency of drug delivery by designing specific molecular structures composed of pharmaceutically effective peptides (small protein molecules) that are attached to tailor-made, geometric-like structures called "scaffolding." Each scaffold is individually designed to combine the peptides to form an effective medicinal combination that will bind to the receptors of targeted cells. Qvit said his process was somewhat analogous to building various kinds of structures through the use of Lego. Qvit, who studies under Prof. Chaim Gilon of the organic chemistry department, has shown, for example, that with a particular combination of peptides and scaffold design, it is possible to create a synthetic molecule that will bind to the IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor-1) receptor. IGF-1 is a protein that plays a critical role in the proliferation of many cancers, including prostate, lung, breast, colon and brain cancers. The binding of the molecule to the receptor inhibits the activation of the IGF-1 protein in the cells, thus halting the cancerous growth. Using this process of "combinational chemistry," involving peptides and scaffold design, Qvit says that many different types of molecules can be built to reach targeted cells, offering hope for the treatment of cancer and other diseases, without harming healthy cells. The Kaye Innovation Awards have been given annually since 1994. British pharmaceutical industrialist Isaac Kaye established the awards to encourage Hebrew University faculty, staff, and students to develop innovative methods and inventions with good commercial potential that will benefit the university and society.