NJIT R & D Short Takes

NJIT Professor Develops Molecular Modeling for Drug Design

A clearer understanding of sigma receptors, mysterious sites within human cells believed to play important roles in biochemical, physiological and behavioral processes, is the goal of research by Tamara Gund, Ph.D., professor of chemistry at NJIT.

Receptors are structures in cells that combine with a drug to produce a specific alteration in cell function, such analgesia, euphoria, or cardiac stimulation. The precise function of the sigma class of receptors is not clear, but scientists believe that compounds bound to sigma receptors will be useful in treating psychiatric diseases, cocaine abuse and schizophrenia, as well as other motor and mental disorders.

Gund uses computer graphics and modeling techniques such as comparative molecular field analysis and distance comparisons to identify pharmacophores for sigma receptors. A pharmacophore is a 3D "fingerprint" of the structural features observed in a group of molecules characteristic of ligands - compounds that bind to specific receptor sites. The development and refinement of these models can be used with drug design techniques to develop new more potent ligands with clinically useful characteristics.


NJIT is a public, scientific and technological research university enrolling more than 8,800 students. The university offers bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees to students in 80 degree programs throughout its six colleges: Newark College of Engineering, New Jersey School of Architecture, College of Science and Liberal Arts, School of Management, Albert Dorman Honors College and College of Computing Sciences. The division of continuing professional education offers adults eLearning, off campus degrees and short courses. Expertise and research initiatives include architecture and building science, applied mathematics, biomedical engineering, environmental engineering and science, information technology, manufacturing, materials, microelectronics, multimedia, telecommunications, transportation and solar astrophysics. Yahoo! Internet Life magazine cites NJIT as a "perennially most wired" university.

Contact Information:   Sheryl Weinstein
Robert Florida
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