NEW YORK, June 12, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Ten years ago the Program for Evolutionary Dynamics was founded at Harvard with a $30 million dollar grant from a financier called Jeffrey Epstein. Since then, the Program, under the direction of Martin Nowak, a professor of Mathematics and Biology at Harvard, has changed the way in which evolution is studied and utilized.
The Program is the first to study the evolution of micro biology with the use of mathematics. It is also the first to develop mathematical models of how cancer cells evolve as well as various bacteria and viruses such as HIV. The creation of such models has led to key discoveries in combatting diseases of all kinds.
In 2012 for example, the Program developed the first mathematical model of how colon cancer cells become immune to inhibitor therapy. The research showed how the KRAS gene is not activated from inhibitor drugs, making cells resistant, but rather a small percentage of cancer cells with an inherantly activated KRAS gene are immune from the start and evolve to predominance as other cancer cells are destroyed by the inhibitor drug. The discovery was critical because instead of applying drugs in sequence to fight resistance, using a cocktail of inhibitor drugs to capture both activated KRAS gene cells and those without, came into focus.
In 2010, the Program published a study showing that most solid tumors contain 40 to 100 genetic mutations, but on average only 5 to 15 actually drive tumor growth. The findings highlighted the importance of targeting only a minority of tumor cells for effective inhibitor treatment.
"Mathematics in evolutionary biology is an exciting new field," Jeffrey Epstein remarked, whose foundation supports cutting edge science across the United States. "It reveals patterns that are otherwise hard to detect."
In addition to disease analysis, the Program has advanced critical evolutionary concepts, including "natural cooperation", quantitative analysis for the evolution of language, game theory, pre-life theory and spatial selection.
Jeffrey Epstein is the founder of the Jeffrey Epstein VI Foundation. He sits on the board for the Mind, Brain and Behavior Committee at Harvard University.
SOURCE Jeffrey Epstein VI Foundation