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Posted: November 28, 2005

PROKAI JOINS UNT HEALTH SCIENCE CENTER AS FIRST WELCH PROFESSOR


LaszloProkai.jpg Laszlo Prokai, PhD, joined the UNT Health Science Center’s Department of Molecular Biology and Immunology this August as its first Robert A. Welch Professor. He will establish the new proteomics laboratories, as well as a state-of-the-art mass spectrometer, the largest in North Texas.

The Welch Professor position was funded by the Welch Foundation, one of the oldest and largest private funding sources for basic chemical research in the United States.

Dr. Prokai plans to focus his proteomics research, with the help of the new mass spectrometer, on the research areas of aging, neurodegenerative diseases and biodefense. His interests also lie in the discovery of new drugs to combat these diseases.

“It’s no longer enough to have research for the sake of research alone,” Dr. Prokai said. “It has to have an end of helping people. We believe that the compounds we are working on are useful in combating multiple diseases.”

Dr. Prokai’s background in a variety of subjects makes him somewhat unique in the world of science. His bachelor’s degree is in chemical engineering, his master’s degree is in radiochemical technology, and his doctorate is in radiochemistry, but his research has brought him into medicinal chemistry, biochemistry, pharmaceutics, drug discovery, neuroscience and, finally, into the department of molecular biology at the health science center.

“I aspire to be a renaissance man,” he said. “When something catches my interest, I strive to learn more and more about it—even outside my field of training and expertise. When you confine yourself to one piece of the puzzle, you’re not able to put together the whole picture.”

Dr. Prokai and his wife Katalin Prokai, PhD, work together as primary research partners, and she will work in the Prokai labs as a research associate professor in pharmacology and neuroscience. Her background is also in chemistry, with a specific interest in drug discovery.

The Prokais’ arrival was also timed to include the arrival of the new mass spectrometer that will be located in the Prokai labs—in addition to two instruments that were moved to the health science center from the University of Florida. The new mass spectrometer is the most powerful mass spectrometer in the Metroplex. The magnetic field within the instrument is one million times stronger than the earth’s own magnetic field, Dr. Prokai said.

“When I saw the specifications for this machine, I was just blown away,” Dr. Prokai said. “This mass spectrometer’s capabilities will support drug discovery in and outside of UNT Health Science Center. We are very excited to have it available here.”

In the mean time, the Prokais are setting up their labs and offices to continue the work that they enjoy most and plan for doing research together with other health science center faculty members.

“The know-how, knowledge and experience that I bring will be helpful to people who are interested in collaborating with me,” Dr. Prokai said. “I look forward to these new challenges.”

### Contact: Kay Colley 817-735-2553, cell 817-980-5090, e-mail kacolley@hsc.unt.edu.

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