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UMBC Professor and Students Solve Key HIV Protein Structure

September 4, 1996-This past month, Chemistry Professor Michael Summers and a team of UMBC students reported in Science that they had successfully characterized the HIV-1 capsid (CA) protein, an egg-like structure containing genetic and viral material nece ssary for replication and infection. "Any scientist who wants to develop a new drug that interferes with HIV needs to know what the virus looks like, and we've provided the first look at one of HIV's most closely held secrets," said Summers, who is also t he only Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator in the University of Maryland System.

During a campus news conference about the discovery, Summers introduced his UMBC co-authors, postdoctoral student Rossitza Gitti, doctoral student Brian Walker, and undergraduate Jill Walker, a Meyerhoff Scholar majoring in biochemistry.

"This work is especially impressive because Dr. Summers' students . . . have played pivotal roles in his cutting-edge research," says Jack Killen, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, a sponsor of the research.

Student research teams led by Summers have now solved three of the six HIV-1 proteins structurally characterized to date.

Media coverage of the team's discovery included the Baltimore Sun, London Daily Telegraph, Salt Lake Tribune, The Lancet, Chemical & Engineering News, Reuters World Service, and the online edition of Scientific American.

Summers recently described his team's work at the annual meeting of The Protein Society, which selected him as its 1996 Young Investigator of the Year.

"In addition to providing key information that may lead to a cure for HIV, Dr. Summers and his colleagues are an excellent example of how students can join in world-class research at UMBC."

-President Freeman A. Hrabowski, III

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