In the news / Drug Discovery

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Despite slowdowns in research suffered by universities around the world due to the pandemic, the University of Arizona has experienced solid growth in the commercialization of university inventions. In the last fiscal year alone UArizona received 274 invention disclosures and launched 17 startups.
 
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A team of University of Arizona researchers are changing the way we prevent and treat heart disease. Dr. Chris Glembotski discovered a compound shown to be effective in reducing severity and recurrence of heart attack, even limiting the damage to the brain during stroke.
 
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Sleep is a big deal, and we’re not getting enough. An estimated 50 to 70 million Americans are affected by poor sleep and it’s having an impact on both our mental and physical health.

 
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The National Academy of Inventors has named 61 academic inventors to the 2021 class of NAI Senior Members. Among them are University of Arizona Health Sciences professors Drs. May Khanna and Meredith Hay. NAI Senior Members are active faculty, scientists and administrators from NAI Member Institutions who have demonstrated remarkable innovation producing technologies that have brought, or aspire to bring, real impact on the welfare of society.
 
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In recent years, there’s been a push by pharma to find nonaddictive pain therapies. In 2006, scientists described the curious case of a Pakistani boy who seemed immune to pain. It was discovered that the SCN9A gene provides instructions for making a “sodium channel” found in nerve cells that transmits pain signals to the brain, acting like a volume knob for pain. Now, a biotech startup wants to mimic this mutation to treat people with chronic pain using CRISPR. Dr. Rajesh Khanna, UArizona Pharmacology professor and BIO5 member who specializes in the study of chronic pain, weighs in on the research surrounding the Nav1.7 channel and use of CRISPR therapy.
 
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Dr. Joel Cuello, UArizona Biosystems Engineering professor and BIO5 member, led a cross-disciplinary team to develop the Air Accordion Photobioreactor, the sustainable tech utilized by the startup AlgaeCell, to produce microalgae for use in pharmaceuticals, supplements, and vaccines.
 
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The Flinn Foundation Entrepreneurialship Program awarded $30K to two UArizona startup companies, including Scintillation Nanotechnologies co-founded by Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry professor and BIO5 member Dr. Craig Aspinwall. Scintillation creates, manufactures, and sells a detector that looks to help create more precise disease treatments and diagnoses.
 
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The National Academy of Inventors (NAI) has named 61 academic inventors to the 2021 class of NAI Senior Members. Among these are professors Drs. May Khanna and Meredith Hay of the University of Arizona. NAI Senior Members are active faculty with growing success in patents, licensing and commercialization. The ability to nominate an individual for NAI Senior Member recognition is an exclusive opportunity afforded solely to NAI Member Institutions like the UArizona to recognize their outstanding innovators. These organizations themselves are widely regarded as innovation powerhouses which continuously promote and foster the spirit of innovation.
 
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UArizona College of Pharmacy Dean Dr. Rick Schnellmann shares about his journey to pursuing academic research and his plans and goals for the college as he looks to the future of the field. Dr. Schnellmann also discusses the expansion of the college with six new endowed chairs and new certificate/dual degree programs for students.
 
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Two University of Arizona faculty members including UArizona Pharmacy professor and BIO5 member Dr. Laurence Hurley, have been elected to the National Academy of Inventors, considered one of the highest professional honors awarded solely to academic inventors, the school said. They join a group of more than 4,000 individual academic inventors that has generated $2.2 trillion in revenue from more than 42,700 U.S. patents and 13,000 licensed technologies and companies.
 
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As vaccines for COVID-19 roll out, so do questions and concerns. Do they work? What are the side effects? Which one is more effective? Pfizer or Moderna? Different companies but both claim their vaccine to be 95% effective. Doctors all over the world are saying, not just having one but two vaccines is incredible. Dr. Elizabeth Connick, UArizona Chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases and BIO5 member, called the vaccine a home run. Overall, Dr. Connick said, the vaccines are the same but with a few differences, like effects.
 
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Two University of Arizona faculty including College of Pharmacy professor and BIO5 member Dr. Laurence Hurley, have been elected as fellows of the National Academy of Inventors. Election as an NAI fellow is the highest professional distinction accorded solely to academic inventors. The NAI Fellows Program highlights academic inventors who have demonstrated a spirit of innovation in creating or facilitating outstanding inventions that have made a tangible impact on quality of life, economic development and the welfare of society.
 
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UArizona Pharmacology and Toxicology researcher and BIO5 member Dr. Jun Wang, has identified a way to develop new drugs to treat COVID-19 by targeting two inhibiting compounds of the virus's replication process. Understanding how these compounds interact and act as inhibitors will allow researchers to design better drug candidates for COVID-19 and other seasonal human coronaviruses.
 
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Sinus infections are one of the most common illnesses, so identifying the progression of the common cold to chronic disease lasting longer than 12 weeks is critical in creating therapies that slow the development of a disease affecting nearly 12% of U.S. adults each year. A group lead by Dr. Eugene Chang, vice chair and associate professor in the Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery at the UArizona College of Medicine, was awarded $2.24 million to study a protein in the respiratory tract with a genetic variation strongly associated with these ailments.
 
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University of Arizona Health Sciences researchers are moving closer to conducting clinical trials on what would be the first therapeutic drug for vascular cognitive impairment and dementia (VCID), the second most common form of dementia after Alzheimer’s disease. Research by Meredith Hay, PhD, a UArizona professor of physiology, and member of the BIO5 Institute and the Evelyn F. McKnight Brain Institute, may offer a remedy for vascular dementia. To date, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not approved any drugs that specifically treat vascular dementia, which involves cognitive impairment caused by injuries – often stroke related – to the vessels supplying blood to the brain.
 
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Dr. Roberta Diaz Brinton, director of UArizona Center for Innovation in Brain Science and BIO5 member, is testing whether a drug called allopregnanolone is a safe and effective way to restore cognitive function in Alzheimer's patients. If the results are good, she’ll be one step closer to bringing the world’s first regenerative therapeutic for Alzheimer’s to the millions of people living with the disease.
 
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The BIO5 Postdoctoral Fellowship provided Jennifer Lising Roxas with a steppingstone to attain a two-year USDA fellowship award that funds her salary, research and travel to professional development opportunities.
 
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Innovative minds spanning several disciplines created partnerships to advance research and impact the lives of Arizonans at the second annual BIO5/BIOSA Faculty Industry Networking Event.