LaGuardia Community College Professor Receives Prestigious CUNY Award for His Research in the Development of Computational Drug Discovery Methods

Long Island City, NY—April 14, 2014—Dr. Ian Alberts, a LaGuardia Community College chemistry professor, received the highly coveted Feliks Gross Award from the City University of New York’s Academy of Humanities and Sciences for his potentially groundbreaking research on computer-aided drug design.

Dr. Alberts was the only community college professor among the six assistant professors to be awarded in recognition of their outstanding research in the humanities or sciences.

“Dr. Alberts is one of the new bright stars in our department,” Dr. Burl Yearwood, the chairperson of the Natural Sciences Department, said at the formal awards ceremony held on April 3.  “His research in the area of computer-aided drug design demonstrates his expertise in applying computational methods to significant scientific problems of chemical and biological importance.

Upon receiving the award, the LaGuardia professor, said, “It is a great honor to receive the award because it is based on my contributions to the field of research.  And it is very important, as a faculty member at LaGuardia, to advance ones scholarly research activities.”

Since joining the Natural Science Department three years ago, Dr. Alberts is continuing his decade-long exploration into the power of the computer to develop novel and effective medicines to combat various types of cancer conditions, inflammatory-based diseases and neuropsychotic disorders.

“The advantage of using these computation methods is that we can design new medicines that are more potent toward the therapeutic target,” he said.  “The methods also minimize the adverse side effects, which are the major cause of drugs failing in clinical trials.”

Dr. Albert is conducing his state-of-the-art drug design program on a sophisticated 3-D computer graphics system.  Helping in the research, are two LaGuardia students who are applying their mentor’s methodology toward the development of anti-psychotic medication.  “They have come up with some interesting compounds,” he said.

Also helping to move the research along are collaborations Dr. Albert established with research groups at Lehman College and Hunter College.  At Lehman, the LaGuardia professor is partnering with the computational group to look at the incorporation of solvation effects into the drug design process.  It is then the job of the synthetic chemistry group at Hunter to synthesize and test the effectiveness of the predicted new drug compounds.

Currently, LaGuardia and Lehman have applied their methodology and designed a potential, new antipsychotic drug that is being tested at Hunter.  “This outstanding collaboration between three CUNY colleges is the reason why the research is going so well,” said Dr. Alberts, who added that if the results are positive they will be applying for additional federal funding.

When Dr. Alberts is not in the classroom or the lab, the assistant professor is collaborating with a LaGuardia mathematics professor in the area of quantum computing, developing hybrid chemistry courses and organizing math skill workshops for students in STEM and health science to improve their math skills as they take science and nursing courses.

Dr. Alberts joined LaGuardia after working in the pharmaceutical industry for 10 years.  At De Novo Pharmaceuticals in England and Schrödinger in New York, he was a principal scientist and led research teams focused on the development and application of state-of-the-art methodology for computational drug discovery.

He received his BS in Chemistry from the University of Manchester, England, and his Ph.D. in Theoretical Chemistry from the University of Cambridge, England.  He conducted postdoctoral research at the University of Georgia.

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