Earns Award for Work to Build a Safer Nut
January 22, 2004
NEW ORLEANS, La., Jan.
22For her work towards developing a safer, hypoallergenic peanut,
biochemist Soheila J. Maleki has been named the
Agricultural Research Service's
"Mid South Area Early Career Research Scientist for 2003." Honored
today in a ceremony in here, Maleki will receive a plaque, cash award and
additional funding for her research.
ARS, celebrating its 50th year, is the U.S.
Department of Agriculture's chief scientific research agency. Its Mid South
Area comprises Alabama, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee.
Maleki is based at the agency's Southern Regional Research Center (SRRC) in New
Orleans. In the five and one-half years that she has worked for ARS, Maleki has
made key discoveries regarding the allergenic properties of peanuts. An
estimated 1.5 million Americans are allergic to peanuts and peanut products.
"In screening for a naturally occurring hypoallergenic peanut, Dr.
Maleki has found a variety that lacks one of the most potent allergens,"
said Edward B. Knipling, acting administrator for ARS. "This peanut
variety is currently being cross-bred with other varieties found by scientists,
to produce a hypoallergenic peanut."
One goal of her research is to provide food manufacturers with a peanut that
can replace the ones typically found in products like peanut butter and mixed
nuts. For some allergy sufferers, accidental ingestion of peanuts can be fatal.
Maleki has also determined how various processing methods can affect the
allergenicity of peanuts. In a study last year, she led a team of scientists in
Processing and Sensory Quality Research Unit in finding that roasting
peanuts causes a marked increase in their allergenic properties.
The early career award is given to ARS scientists who have made outstanding
scientific contributions, been with the agency seven years or less and
completed their highest academic degree within the past 10 years.
Maleki was born in Iran and grew up in Cleveland, Ohio. She earned her
bachelor's degree in chemistry from the University of Tennessee, and her doctorate in
biochemistry and molecular biology from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, in