Krishna Kumar, 32
Improves the stability and effectiveness of protein-based drugs
Proteins are marvels of nature, but because they can be fragile and unstable, many protein-based drugs break down and lose effectiveness. Krishna Kumar, as associate professor of chemistry, heads a Tufts University research team that is engineering better proteins. In one approach, Kumar and his associates chemically alter segments of the proteins, stiffening their structures and improving their stability. In a process that incorporates fluorocarbons like those found in Teflon, the team fabricates proteins that can penetrate human cell membranes to allow the passage of drug molecules. Kumar’s team has received one international patent, and other patents are pending. Several biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies, as well as venture capital firms, are evaluating Kumar’s techniques for their potential to make drugs more effective. If they work, then the flood of new information about the proteins in the human body could soon yield better therapeutics.