James Marden, professor of biology, and Scott Medina, assistant professor of biomedical engineering, received a New Initiatives Grant, which fosters interdisciplinary collaboration by supporting research that takes a novel approach to address fundamental scientific questions. Marden and Medina will investigate how newly discovered lectin proteins interact with sugar molecules on cancer cells. These proteins — developed from genes identified in a tropical rainforest — inhibit cancer cells in unusual ways, and lab evidence to date suggests they do not noticeably compromise healthy cells. Variation among these proteins may counteract common cancer cell mutations that cause resistance to treatment. In addition to their therapeutic potential, lectin proteins may provide biochemical tools to identify glycans — sugars that can affect human diseases if altered — on cancer cells. Using proteins to understand glycans could reveal potential new targets for therapy.