Meet UNMC Distinguished Scientist Tahir Tahirov, Ph.D.

April 19, 2011

UNMC researcher Tahir Tahirov, Ph.D., answers questions about his work, life and interests.

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Tahir Tahirov, Ph.D.
NOTE: This profile is part of a series highlighting the 24 researchers who will be honored at a May 2 ceremony for UNMC's 2010 Scientist Laureate, Distinguished Scientist and New Investigator award recipients.

  • Name: Tahir Tahirov, Ph.D.
  • Title: professor in the Eppley Institute
  • Joined UNMC: June 1, 2005
  • Hometown: Nakhchivan (Naxçıvan), Azerbaijan

Describe your research in laymen's terms.

We use structural biology methods to understand the detailed mechanisms of the functions of human proteins.

How does your research contribute to science and/or health care?

We are consistently making interesting discoveries uncovering both normal cellular, as well as disease-related functions, of proteins in such detail that allows us to determine the role of each atom. This is very important for the design of drugs to fight cancer and a variety of other diseases. For example, solving the structure of human p-TEFb protein in complex with HIV-1 Tat protein for the first time provided a detailed view of how the HIV protein hijacks and uses the human protein. We recently published this discovery in Nature, paving the way for the design of new types of anti-HIV drugs targeting the transcription or viral gene.

Name someone at UNMC who provides vital contributions to your success and briefly describe how they help you.

When I moved to UNMC I started several highly ambitious projects. The enthusiastic support of these "risky" projects by the Eppley Cancer Center director, Dr. Ken Cowan, allowed us to work on these projects. Now we are happy that these projects are still ambitious but not risky anymore, thanks to the hard work and achievements by all members of my laboratory.

List three things few people know about you.

  • I love mountains and biking with my son.
  • I enjoy working with my wife. It doubles my scientific activity and quality of my research. I also enjoy discussing science with my daughter and I am very proud of her becoming the Dean's Scholar at UNL.
  • For those who missed my secrets last year: I like to listen Azeri folk music and grill on weekends when my family gathers together.

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