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Juniata Researcher Receives Grant for Immunology Project

(Posted May 12, 2003)

HUNTINGDON, Pa. -- Michael Boyle, William J. von Liebig Chair in Biomedical Sciences at Juniata College, received a $100,000 grant from the Life Sciences Greenhouse of Central Pennsylvania to study chicken immunoglobulin-binding proteins.

Dr. Boyle and his research students will be studying how to isolate a bacterial protein in chickens that can be used to detect and purify antibodies produced by the chickens. The antibodies of mammals have been used for decades to diagnose and treat infectious diseases, a process known as immunotherapy. Many of these mammalian antibodies are expensive to produce and can cause medical complications to patients receiving the antibodies as treatment.

Antibodies generated in chickens by contrast are readily tolerated by the majority of humans and eggs have been used as a food source and for producing human vaccines for decades.

To produce chicken antibodies that can be used for diagnostic and immunotherapy applications, scientists must identify reagents that can detect and purify antibodies (within the egg yolks) efficiently and at low cost. Dr. Boyle's proposal aims at isolating a functional protein reagent that can be used for this purpose.

Dr. Boyle's grant is one of 14 such awards totaling $1.37 million that are intended to advance cutting-edge research in the life sciences. These awards are the first to be awarded by the Life Sciences Greenhouse. Awarded twice a year, the grants are aimed at improving life sciences technologies to accelerate economic growth and development in central Pennsylvania.

The central Pennsylvania organization is one of three regional Greenhouses in the state.

"The variety and caliber of proposals was impressive, a reflection of the world class research being done at Penn State University, Lehigh Universty Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center and liberal arts colleges like Juniata," says Mel Billingsley, president and CEO of the central Pennsylvania Greenhouse.

Dr. Boyle came to Juniata in 2002 from the Medical College of Ohio, where he was professor of microbiology and immunology. Dr. Boyle, a native of Belfast, Northern Ireland, started his career as a visiting fellow and visiting scientist at the National Institutes of Health's National Cancer Institute from 1974 to 1980. His research focuses on two areas: using immunotechnology to adapt antibodies as the basis for diagnostics and other tests; and the study of pathogen interactions between Group A streptococcus and the human immune system.

Dr. Boyle began his academic career in 1981 as an associate professor of immunology at the University of Florida College of Medicine in Gainesville, Fla. He was promoted to full professor in 1985. Dr. Boyle joined the faculty of the Medical College of Ohio (MCO) in 1988.

Contact John Wall at wallj@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3132 for more information.