June 15, 2017
Robert McGinty, M.D., Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Division of Chemical Biology and Medicinal Chemistry at the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy, has been selected as a 2017 Pew-Stewart Scholar for Cancer Research.
The scholarship awards $240,000 over a four-year term to early-career scientists whose research may accelerate discovery and advance progress to a cure for cancer. McGinty initially applied to the Pew Scholars Program but was offered the Pew-Stewart Scholarship instead because of the relevancy of his work to cancer treatment.
McGinty studies the mechanisms governing epigenetic signaling at the nucleosome and chromatin levels. Nucleosomes are a basic unit of DNA packaging in cells, and nucleosomes form chromatin, the material that makes up chromosomes. He uses protein chemistry to reconstitute “designer” nucleosomes and chromatin containing defined patterns of post-translational modifications.
When paired with structural biology, including X-ray crystallography and single particle cryo-electron microscopy, McGinty is able to explore the mechanisms governing specific epigenetic signaling pathways at atomic resolution. Epigenetic pathways allow an organism to develop many different types of cells with identical DNA sequences using heritable information not encoded in the DNA itself. These epigenetic pathways are commonly disrupted in cancer and other diseases. In the School’s Center for Integrative Chemical Biology and Drug Discovery, he plans to leverage his structural studies toward the design of small molecules to manipulate chromatin-signaling pathways for basic research and therapeutic goals.
McGinty joined the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy as assistant professor in July 2016. He received his M.D. from Weill Cornell Medical College and Ph.D. from Rockefeller University in New York City and carried out postdoctoral research at Pennsylvania State University.
McGinty is the associate director of structural biology in the CICBDD and an affiliate faculty member of the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics at the UNC School of Medicine.