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Release: July 9, 2001

Professor Vasu Nair receives American Chemical Society Award

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Vasu Nair, professor of chemistry in the University of Iowa College of Liberal Arts, will receive the 2001 Midwest Award of the American Chemical Society (ACS) on Oct. 11 during the annual meeting of the ACS Midwest Region in Lincoln, Neb.

The award is being given for Nair's groundbreaking work in organic chemical synthesis, and, in particular, for applications thereof to the development of novel therapeutics for treatment of HIV infection and virulence. The St. Louis section of the ACS sponsors the Midwest Award, and the Midwest region consists of Iowa, Arkansas, Missouri, Southern Illinois, Nebraska, Kansas and South Dakota.

Last year Nair, together with researchers at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) in Bethesda, Md. and several UI chemistry department postdoctoral associates, published in the Journal of the ACS their discovery of potential HIV-inhibiting molecules that could one day prove therapeutically significant in the treatment of AIDS. Although the work remains years away from potential human testing, it is significant for its ability to stop HIV and for the way in which it attacks the virus. In short, Nair and his colleagues found small, stable molecules that inhibit the integration of viral DNA into human chromosomal DNA. This is important because if DNA from the HIV virus cannot enter human chromosomal DNA, then it cannot exploit the human cellular chemistry it needs to reproduce itself and destroy the human immune system. In time, the discovery may lead to the development of a drug or other therapy to limit the progression of AIDS.

Nair, internationally known for his work on antiviral compounds, was named UI Foundation Distinguished Professor of Chemistry in 1993 and has received various patents, research awards and grants. In 1998 he was elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) "for his contributions to the development of antiviral agents."