Matthew Gentry: Biofuels, Epilepsy and Science Advocacy

In May, it was my distinct pleasure to present Matthew Gentry with a University Research Professorship award. He was one of 16 faculty, selected by their own colleges, who have demonstrated excellence in scholarship and creative work that addresses scientific, social, cultural and economic challenges in our region and around the world.

Gentry, a professor of molecular and cellular biochemistry in the College of Medicine, has received an NSF Faculty Career Development Award, NIH Pathway to Independence Award, three U.S. patents, and a five-year, $8.5 million NIH grant to pursue a cure for Lafora disease, a deadly congenital form of epilepsy.

His research began with a plant protein that controls the production of biofuels. It turns out mutations in a similar protein in humans result in Lafora disease. He explains, “The discoveries that we made in the plant system were directly applicable to the human system, and that led us down this road now of studying this human disease with the realistic and hopeful possibility of a therapy in the next two to five years.”

Gentry, who spends time advocating for science funding through the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, says, “We advocate that money shouldn't be set aside for specific diseases because while you're researching disease X, you can find something that impacts disease Y. And if you set that money aside, then you don't let the best science get done.”

Listen to the podcast to hear why Gentry says the breadth and depth of the research environment at UK is uniquely strong.