Vikas Nanda, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Center for Advanced Biotechnology and Medicine, and Department of Biochemistry, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.

Dr. Vikas Nanda earns the National Institutes of Health New Innovator Award

Vikas Nanda, PhD, assistant professor of biochemistry and a member of the Center for Advanced Biotechnology and Medicine at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, is one of this year’s recipients of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director’s New Innovator Award. Dr. Nanda will receive $1.5 million over five years to support his novel approach to creating a synthetic network of proteins resembling the extracellular matrix of mammalian cells. This will allow research into the role of the matrix in normal and disease processes and help translate new findings into the development of biomaterials, which can then be used to engineer artificial tissue for treatment of human diseases.

“Dr. Nanda has demonstrated exceptional innovation as a researcher and is highly deserving of the esteemed New Innovator Award.” said Peter S. Amenta, MD, PhD, dean of Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. “His research into the role extracellular matrices play in causing disease could transform therapy for patients.”
The extracellular matrix (ECM) is a complex network of proteins that provides a surface upon which cells can adhere, transform and spread rapidly. The ECM mediates communication within cells and under normal conditions can suppress a cell’s transformation from a normal state to one that is malignant. Alterations in the ECM are critical contributors to a wide spectrum of diseases, including cancer, lupus and other autoimmune disorders. Dr. Nanda’s research focuses on the construction of artificial collagen-based matrices using computational methods. These matrices will be used to examine the role of chemical and spatial organization of the network of proteins in the ECM on the tumor forming potential of adhered cells.

“I am honored to receive support for my research from the NIH,” said Dr. Nanda. “By constructing artificial matrices, we can explore their ability to suppress rapid cell growth in the presence of various signals that contribute to abnormal tumor development. This will provide a powerful system for studying molecular aspects of the matrix biology of cancer.”

Dr. Nanda added that successfully designed matrices can be applied to engineering safer artificial human tissues that may provide therapeutic treatment of chronic diseases, including those of the bowel, bone and skin.

Born in Boston, Mass., Dr. Nanda grew up in Annapolis, Md., and currently resides in Highland Park, N.J. Dr. Nanda earned his Bachelor of Science degree in biology at California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, in 1995 and his doctoral degree in biochemistry in 2001 at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Md., under the guidance of Dr. Ludwig Brand. He conducted post-doctoral research at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, with Dr. William F. DeGrado from 2000 to 2005, after which he joined the faculty of the biochemistry department at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. He conducts his research at the Center for Advanced Biotechnology and Medicine (CABM), an interdisciplinary collaboration between Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and Rutgers University that is directed by Professor of Molecular Genetics, Microbiology and Immunology Aaron Shatkin, PhD, and is dedicated to excellence in advancing biomedical research and education in the life sciences.

According to the NIH, New Innovator Awards support a small number of investigators of exceptional creativity who are early in their research careers. The investigators propose bold and highly innovative new research approaches that have the potential to produce a major impact on broad, important problems in biomedical and behavioral science. New Innovator Award recipients have not previously been granted an NIH regular research (R01) or similar NIH grant. The grant award program is a key component of the NIH Roadmap for Medical Research.