Dr. Larry DeLucas

Dr. Larry DeLucas is a Professor in the School of Optometry, the Director of the Comprehensive Cancer Center X-ray Core Facility, and the Director of the Center for Biophysical Sciences and Engineering at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). From October 1994 to October 1995, he served as Chief Scientist for the International Space Station at NASA Headquarters. He currently serves as a member of NASA’s Space Station Science Utilization and Advisory Subcommittee, the U. S. Space and Rocket Center Advisory Committee, the Challenger Learning Center Advisory Board, the Executive Committee of the Helen Keller Eye Research Foundation, the Council of Biotechnology Centers Board, as President of the Alabama State Biotechnology Association Board of Directors, as Co-chair of the Spacehab Science Advisory Board and is a member of the Japanese Space Agency Science Advisory Board. Dr. DeLucas was named the Distinguished Faculty Lecturer at UAB (October 2000), a prestigious award honoring individuals in the Academic Health Center at UAB who have made major contributions in education, research, or service. In April 1999 he received the Howell Heflin Statesmanship Award for Technology and was in January 1999 he was recognized as one of the scientists who could shape the 21st century in an article published by “The Sunday Times” of London titled “The Brains Behind the 21st Century”. He received Honorary Doctor of Science degrees from Ferris State University (May 2002), Ohio State University (June 1999), Illinois College of Optometry (May 1998), and State University of New York State College of Optometry (May 1997). Dr. DeLucas received five degrees from UAB culminating in a Doctor of Optometry degree and a Ph.D. degree in Biochemistry. He has published over 100 research articles in various scientific journals, has co-authored two books on protein crystal growth and is a co-inventor on several patents involving protein crystal growth hardware. He has been an invited lecturer at numerous national and international scientific meetings concerning microgravity research. He flew as a Payload Specialist on the United States Microgravity Laboratory-1 (launched in June, 1992), participating in thirty-one different scientific materials processing experiments. Dr. DeLucas’ research interests include protein crystallography, structure-based drug design, and biotechnology. His laboratory recently developed a nanocrystallization system that uses a proprietary chemical screen to rapidly and efficiently determine protein crystallization conditions. This system requires less than 400mg of purified proteins to screen as many as 2,000 different chemical conditions in less than 8 hours. This new capability allows virtually any protein to be crystallized using solutions that span a variety of viscosities, pH’s, and ionic strengths.

Broadcast 539 (Special Edition)

Dr. Larry DeLucas joined The Space Show guest family for this program to discuss protein crystallization in microgravity. Dr. DeLucas explained the basics to us, we spoke at length about both pharmaceutical and commercial interest and applications. We discussed space access and its costs in terms of doing something commercial in space regarding protein crystal growth. Dr. DeLucas explained the success ratio, compared it to growing proteins on Earth, talked about the need for a gentle re-entry and what that means, why the g-force will damage the proteins, and much more.

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