Associate Professor of Biochemistry
Eric A. First joined the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at LSU Health Sciences Center in Shreveport in November 1994 as a tenure track Assistant Professor. He was promoted to tenured Associate Professor in July 2000. In 2004, Dr. First received the Dr. Allan A. Copping Award for Excellence in Teaching. Dr. First’s research focuses on aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases, enzymes that play a critical role in protein synthesis. This research includes identifying the mechanism of action of tyrosyl-tRNA synthetase and investigating its role in human disease. Dr. First’s laboratory was the first to sequence the human tyrosyl-tRNA synthetase, and discovered a novel carboxyl-terminal domain that is homologous to an antiangiogenic cytokine (EMAP II). Additional research efforts include attempts to elucidate the mechanism by which mutations in genes encoding aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases give rise to Charcot-Marie-Tooth disorder, the most common inherited peripheral neuropathy. Dr. First’s current research focuses on redesigning the protein synthesis apparatus to facilitate the incorporation of unnatural D-amino acids into proteins. This research has potential application in developing peptide-based drugs that are orally available and less immunogenic than current drugs. During the course of this research, Dr. First and his colleagues developed a number of high-throughput enzymatic assays, which are suitable for high-throughput screening of potential antibacterial, antimicrobial, and anticancer agents. Dr. First is a member of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, the American Chemical Society, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He has published numerous peer-reviewed journals and book chapters, has spoken at national and international scientific meeting, and is co-inventor on one patent. His research has been supported by the National Institutes of Health, Muscular Dystrophy Association, and Feist-Weiller Cancer Center.