Greg Rogers, PhD, awarded NSF grant to study organelle biogenesis

Greg Rogers, PhD
Greg Rogers, PhD

University of Arizona Cancer Center member Greg Rogers, PhD, was recently awarded a $660,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to further his research on the assembly of the centrosome — an organelle that can influence genomic instability and tumor formation.

“I’m so thankful and appreciative to the NSF, as well as the continued support of Dr. David Alberts and my colleagues at the University of Arizona Cancer Center,” Dr. Rogers said. “Given the exceptionally competitive funding climate, this grant would not have been possible without such strong institutional support.”

Dr. Rogers is an assistant professor of cellular and molecular medicine at The University of Arizona, and has been a University of Arizona Cancer Center member since 2008. The grant will begin in 6-8 weeks and continue through 2016.

This particular study will be aimed at how the body builds an organelle — the centriole in particular.

“It's a tiny organelle. It’s an attractive organelle for these studies for many reasons, and it’s medically relevant to understanding how cancer cells are formed,” Dr. Rogers said. “Cancer is a disease of change. We want to study what fuels that change, and our hypothesis is that chromosomal instability is a major driving force.”

This is Dr. Rogers’ first major grant. Since the funding is coming from the NSF, his research will have more of a basic science approach as opposed to the translational/clinical goals often seen from projects funded by the National Institute of Health.

“As I went through the grant-writing process, many of my colleagues placed a large emphasis on translational medicine,” Dr. Rogers said. “For the vast majority of grants receiving funding these days, it’s important to identify a clinician to get your research funded. In a way, it’s somewhat ironic that my first major grant was to perform such basic science work.”

Dr. Rogers believes that the recent publication of his feature article in the Journal of Cell Biology played a large part in his successful grant application.

His article, titled “The Protein Phosphatase 2A regulatory subunit Twins stabilizes Plk4 to induce centriole amplification,” was the first research paper that Dr. Rogers (along with his graduate students Christopher W. Brownlee and Joey E. Klebba, as well as Research Associate, Dr. Daniel W. Buster) had published since establishing his own lab at the Cancer Center over three years ago. The article was accepted for publication in early September and appeared on the Journal of Cell Biology’s website in mid-October.

“Positive momentum plays a very large part in a successful research program,” Dr. Rogers said. “Getting that article published definitely helped us receive this grant. We’re now hoping that this grant can potentially lead to more funding down the road.”

-April 27, 2012