In the news / Drug Discovery

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The UArizona College of Pharmacy's scientists, labs and alumni are partnering with pharmaceutical companies, working in hospital emergency departments, and helping the public get the medication they need as we face the COVID-19 pandemic. Included in this effort are BIO5 members Drs. Jun Wang and Chris Hulme, both of which have shifted their research foci toward COVID-19. Dr. Wang is working on developing promising drug candidates that inhibit SARS-CoV-2 virus in cell culture, while Dr. Hulme is researching the pharmacological underpinnings of COVID-19.
 
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The UArizona College of Pharmacy’s new Arizona Center for Drug Discovery (ACDD) is co-Directed by Department of Pharmacology & Toxicology professor and BIO5 researcher, Dr. Wei Wang. Dr. Wang promises to energize the drug discovery process across campus by helping UArizona drug researchers with drug discovery — early-stage efforts to narrow down candidate drug compounds — and connecting them with partners in the pharmaceutical industry.
 
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UArizona Pharmacology professor and BIO5 member Dr. Rajesh Khanna was named a senior member of the National Academy of Inventors (NAI) for his work with Regulonix. Dr. Khanna co-founded and serves as the chief scientific officer of Regulonix. The company is in the process of developing non-opioid therapies for chronic pain relief and management.
 
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Dr. Donna Zhang, a UArizona professor ofPharmacology and Toxicology and BIO5 member, has been formally vested as the Musil Family Endowed Chair For Drug Discovery. Dr. Zhang is an internationally recognized researcher who has spent her career focusing on the transcription factor that regulates the expression of antioxidant proteins, where she has made a number of profound contributions.
 
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Regents Professor Emeritus and UArizona CBC faculty Dr. Victor Hruby, is one of two university academics being honored as National Academy of Inventors Fellows, the highest professional distinction awarded to academic inventors. Known as a world leader in peptide research as it relates to health, disease and human behavior, Dr. Hruby holds more than 50 issued patents, and is dedicated to answering challenging research questions and then translating those discoveries to the public via intellectual property protection and commercial pathways.
 
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An inflammatory protein may play a part against the spread of sexually transmitted genital herpes virus in the nervous system, a new study says. The findings could help lead to improved treatment of herpes, according to the researchers at the University of Arizona College of Medicine-Phoenix.
 
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Dr. Louise Hecker, research lead for a College of Medicine – Tucson lab studying highly selective Nox4 small molecule inhibitors for the treatment of fibrotic disorders, was selected to receive the Innovator of the Year Award in the academia category at the annual Governor's Celebration of Innovation Awards.
 
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To better understand biological processes, researchers at the University of Arizona have developed new materials for detecting radioisotopes that provide faster and higher resolution results than today’s generally accepted methods. These materials were developed by a team of researchers including the BIO5 Institute's Dr. Craig Aspinwall professor in the UA Departments of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Biomedical Engineering, and also a member of the Cancer Center and Sarver Heart Center at the UA College of Medicine – Tucson.
 
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A team of UA researchers, including COM-T professor and BIO5 member Dr. Rajesh Khanna, are developing a compound that would be used as an alternative to opioids in treating the pain of chemotherapy. The opioids currently prescribed by doctors have many side effects and can be easily abused by patients. This alternative painkillers being developed bypass many of these issues and could be instrumental in ending the current opiate abuse health crisis.
 
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A group of UAHS researchers including BIO5 members Drs. Rick Schnellmann, Roberta Brinton, Todd Vanderah, Monica Kraft, Scott Boitano, Andrew Capaldi, Michael Worobey, Louise Hecker, and Julie Ledford participated in the “Discovering New Medicines in Arizona” one-day summit, hosted by the AZ Center for Drug Discovery and the UA Cancer Center. The event sought to highlight key areas of research that seek to treat diseases prevalent in Arizona while establishing collaborations that enable success for future research and discoveries.
 
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Leading experts including UA Pharmacology and Toxicology assistant professor and BIO5 member Dr. Jun Wang, say understanding how the influenza virus replicates inside the body helps researchers develop a wider range of antiviral drugs. After finding medication resistant mutations within multiple flu viruses, Dr. Wang and other research teams across the globe, are looking to develop new drugs to target them.
 
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Dr. Irving Kron, a BIO5 member, professor of surgery with the UA College of Medicine - Tucson, and senior associate vice president for UA Health Sciences, has been named the new contact principal investigator (PI) for the UA Health Sciences and Banner Health 'All of Us' research program and precision medicine initiative. In his new role, Dr. Kron will lead the multiple UA and Banner Health established PI leadership teams, which include a team led by fellow BIO5 member Dr. Eric Reiman.
 
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A team led by The BIO5 Institute's Roberta Diaz Brinton, PhD, director of the Center for Innovation in Brain Science, received the multi-million dollar grant from the National Institute on Aging. The five-year grant will fund a national multi-site Phase 2 clinical trial to determine the effectiveness of allopregnanalone, or allo, as a treatment for individuals with early-stage Alzheimer’s who carry the genetic risk factor for the disease. This award supports the goals of the National Alzheimer’s Project Act.
 
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BIO5 member Dr. Michael D. L. Johnson, Assistant Professor of Immunobiology at the UA College of Medicine - Tucson, discusses his ongoing research regarding copper’s toxicity towards bacteria and how the metal may help in the development of a new antibiotic to fight a potentially devastating, antibiotic resistant strain of pneumonia.
 
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In the summertime, the call of the wild demands to be answered. The usually silent slithering of a snake can ruin a day spent basking in nature, but a snake bite doesn’t have to ruin your life. Along with other leading scientists, BIO5’s VIPER Institute researchers discuss the do's and don'ts of snake bite care and prevention, as well as the science behind venomous bites.
 
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A University of Arizona team lead by BIO5 member and Molecular and Cellular Biology associate professor Dr. Andrew Capaldi, asked the question: If different biological circuit pathways both activate genes that cause cells to grow and turn on and off in response to nutrients, then why does the cell need both pathways to control growth? Dr. Capaldi's team believes that learning how these pathways interact and work together can help us create more effective drugs to treat cancer, or even epilepsy.
 
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When two studies attempting to identify new colon cancer treatment methods found different results, UA COM-T Assistant Professor of Cellular and Molecular Medicine and BIO5 Faculty Dr. Curtis Thorne, was asked to help settle the uncertainty. Dr. Thorne called upon one of his doctoral student, Carly Cabel, to assist in his research determining whether therapeutic targeting of specific proteins is a viable treatment for colon cancer.
 
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A new study led by scientists at the UA has uncovered a potential new way to treat patients with ALS, a debilitating neurodegenerative disease. “The fact that we uncovered a compensatory mechanism surprised me,” says UA Molecular and Cellular Biology professor and BIO5 researcher Dr. Daniela Zarnescu. “These desperate, degenerating neurons showed incredible resilience. It is an example of how amazing cells are at dealing with stress.”