Jennifer Wilson, an assistant professor of bioengineering at the UCLA Samueli School of Engineering, has received a Maximizing Investigators’ Research Award from the National Institutes of Health.

The five-year, $1.6 million grant will help fund Wilson’s research to enhance the understanding of how drugs affect cellular proteins. Proteins coordinate cellular responses to stimuli, such as medications, and they play a major role in a medication’s therapeutic effects — including unintended side effects.

The rules that govern how the interactions work, especially in cases where medicines bind with proteins inside the cell, remain a gray area in science. Wilson’s research aims to map the complex interactions of drugs and proteins as well as their downstream effects. The knowledge could help improve the design of medications with better efficacy, resulting in fewer and less severe side effects.

Wilson joined the UCLA Samueli faculty in 2021 and directs the Lab for the Understanding of Network Effects.