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Biochemistry
Faculty Profile

Paul M. Bingham, Ph.D.

Associate Professor
Department of Biochemistry and Cell Biology

450 Life Sciences Building Stony Brook University Stony Brook, NY 11794-5215
Phone: 631-632-8548

E-mail: paul.bingham@stonybrook.edu

Research Description

   

After completing a PhD in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Harvard in 1980, Paul spent two years at the NIH branch in Research Triangle Park before jointing the faculty of the School of Medicine at Stony Brook University where he has worked for the last 29 years. Paul’s research interests are diverse. His early work focused on metazoan molecular genetics. Among his many contributions are discovery of the P element transposon (in collaboration with Margaret Kidwell and Gerry Rubin; Bingham, et al., 1982), development of the P element transposon tagging cloning strategy (in collaboration with Arno Greenleaf; Searles, et al., 1982) discovery of novel mechanisms of transcriptional enhancer function (in collaboration with Zuzana Zachar; Bingham and Zachar, 1985), discovery of novel forms of post-transcriptional regulation (in collaboration with Tze-bin Chou, Zuzana Zachar and Debbie Spikes; Chou, et al., 1987; Zachar, et al., 1987; Spikes, et al., 1994) and discovery of fundamental mechanisms of intra-nuclear molecular transport (in collaboration with Joe Kramer and Zuzana Zachar; Zachar, et al., 1993).

In recognition of his diverse research and service contributions, Paul received an honorary doctorate from his alma mater, Blackburn College, in May of 2006.

More recently Paul’s research has focused on two areas.

Current ResearchFirst, in collaboration with Prof. Zuzana Zachar (shown at right), Paul has been pursuing a novel approach to cancer chemotherapy. This approach exploits the now-well-characterized differences in patterns of energy metabolism between tumor cells and normal.. Lipoic acid is both a catalytic component of the two enzymes through which most carbon enters tumor cell mitochondria and the source of regulatory signals that control this carbon flux and tumor cell mitochondrial metabolism more generally. These regulatory signals and their targets are apparently so extensively different in tumor and normal cells that properly designed lipoate analogs – mis-informing these regualtory processes - can be used to selectively kill tumor cells.

The crucial feature of this approach is that it apparently allows the killing of tumor cells without killing growing normal cells in vivo. The therapeutic index of these lipoate analog drugs in human tumor animal models can be as high as several orders of magnitude as a result of these properties. This is essentially unprecedented among cancer chemotherapeutic agents. Virtually all chemotherapeutic approaches currently in wide use kill normal cells with appreciable frequency – resulting in side-effect toxicity that is often quite severe (occassionally even fatal).

This approach was developed by Zuzana and Paul in the late 1990’s and the University holds a patent on these agents. An exclusive, world-wide liscense has been taken on this patent by Cornerstone Pharmaceuticals. Zuzana and Paul are working with the outstanding clinical, regulatory and drug development experts at Cornerstone to bring this approach into human clinical trials, currently in PhaseI/II (see http://vimeo.com/23839299 for a brief video summary of this work).

In recognition of their research contributions Paul and Zuzana received the Michael Maffetone Award for Cancer Research by the Carol M. Baldwin Breast Cancer Research Fund in the Fall of 2008 (see picture below from the award ceremony; Pictured, from left, are: Dawn Maffetone, Carol M. Baldwin, Paul, Zuzana, Billy Baldwin, and John Stoerback, Board President, Carol M. Baldwin Research Fund).

Second, Paul has developed a fundamentally new theory of the origin of humans as a unique species with diverse, unprecedented properties (Bingham, 1999 and 2000). This novel approach has subsequently been extensively developed in collaboration with economist Daijiro Okada (Okada and Bingham, 2008) and pschologist/biologist Joanne Souza (Bingham and Souza, 2009, 2011)(see pictures of Joanne and Daijiro on next page). This theory proposes that unique human properties (includuing complex language, large brains and cognitive virtuosity, complex ethical/political psychology and vast ecological dominance) are all results or features of a single, underlying adaptation – vastly expanded, unprecedented social cooperation independent of close genetic kinship.

Moreover, this unique social behavior, in turn, has a single, simple underlying cause – unprecedented access to inexpensive coercion (and coercive threat). This novel capacity makes “law enforcement” a coherent Darwinian adaptation only in humans among all terrestrial animals. This unique access to coercion initially developed through the evolution of the uniquely human capacity for elite aimed throwing in the first proto-human around two million years ago. As a result, humans have a two million year history of exquisite adaptation to the use of coercion to sustain vast, productive social cooperation. As we humans have developed ever newer coercive technologies we have continued to deploy them to sustain this cooperation on ever larger scales.

This theory is unprecedented in its simplicity, on the one hand, and its predictive power, on the other. These features, collectively, constitute parsimony – a property of all strong, useful theories.

This theory has unprecendent power to predict all the diverse features of the fossil record of human origins (including the recent, exciting findings emerging from the Dmanisi dig in former Soviet Republic of Georgia and from the newly discovered potential proto-human transitional species Australopithcus sideba in South Africa) and the origin and details of individual human properties (including language, brain expansion, cognitive virtuosity and sexual/child-rearing behaviors). Moreover, this approach inevitably contains within it the most powerful theory of history we have ever possessed – able to predict the salient details of the behaviorally modern human revolution, the agricultural revolutions and the rise of the archaic and modern states, for example. Each of these historic transitions is predicted to result from expansion of the scale of the ancient human social adaptation in consequence of development of coercive technologies of new scale. These new coercive technologies allow the management of the ancient universal non-kin conflict of interest problem on new scales. The resulting increases in social scale produce corresponding increases in the fruits of human social cooperation, for example, agricultural revolutons, the modern economic miracle and the Scientific Revolution. See www.deathfromadistance.com main page and Beyond the Book button for additional information and video lectures on the theory and this research project.

Paul and collaborator, Joanne Souza, have recently published a book-length treartment of the diverse implications of the theory (Bingham and Souza, 2009, 2011).

 


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