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Friday, February 20, 2004
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Researcher to speak about new growth hormone drug

By Adrienne Gavula

Ohio University researchers work on a variety of issues from dinosaurs to migraine headaches to baseball. The Bicentennial Colloquia to be presented at 4:10 p.m. on Tuesday afternoons give researchers the opportunity to present their work to a very diverse audience: The campus community and the public. The presentations are to encourage a greater understanding and appreciation of the faculty's work.

John KopchickOn Tuesday, Feb. 24, John Kopchick, Goll-Ohio Professor of Molecular Biology, will be presenting "Growth Hormone, Football, Dirty Shorts and Discovery of a Novel Drug" in room 145 of the New Classroom Facility on the University's West Green.

If you have too much of a growth hormone, you're prone to diabetes and some types of cancer. If you have too little, you may be dwarf. Fifteen years ago, Kopchick and his research group in the growth, obesity and diabetes group decided to study the molecular aspect of growth hormone, which has 191 amino acids. They found that the amino acid, glycine, found in alpha-helix 3, was an important amino acid required for growth hormone action. If you change this one amino acid, you convert the molecule from a growth enhancer to a growth suppressor or a growth hormone antagonist.

They tested it in mice and found that it inhibited growth. The mice were also resistant to the induction of breast cancer and diabetes. The drug, now called Somavert, went through human clinical trials and is being sold by Pfizer in the United States and Europe. This drug is for people who possess too much growth hormone. Kopchick hopes that it will be used for breast cancer and diabetic kidney disease in the near future.

"Discovery of a drug is unheard of in a university; we were very lucky," Kopchick says. "Now, everyone wants to hear about it."

Originally from Punxsutawney, Pa., Kopchick received both his bachelor's degree in biology and master's degree in biology and chemistry from Indiana University of Pennsylvania. He was awarded a Ph.D. in 1980 from the University of Texas System Cancer Center in Houston, Texas. He continued research training as a postdoctoral fellow at the Roche Institute of Molecular Biology, and then he spent five years at Merck Sharp and Dohme Research Laboratories. Kopchick joined Ohio University in 1987.

He has published more than 190 scientific articles and 200 published abstracts in the area of growth, obesity and diabetes. Twelve patents have been granted based on his work.

Adrienne Gavula is a student writer with University Communications and Marketing.

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