In the news / Drug Discovery

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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.”
 
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Funded by the American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute at the National Institute of Health, Dr. Jacob Schwartz, an Assistant Professor in the UA Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and BIO5 faculty, has created a new drug treatment for a class of cancers. Dr. Schwartz’s primary focus is Ewing’s sarcoma, a childhood cancer that is driven by proteins he and his students are investigating.
 
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It seems Valley Fever is spreading. Some of the increase may be explained by improved diagnosis, but other factors are also at work; including increased migration and visitation to the Southwest where coccidioidomycosis is endemic. The director of the Valley Fever Center for Excellence and BIO5 member Dr. John Galgiani, weighs in on the challenges and progress regarding the development of a vaccine for the disease.
 
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Aqualung Therapeutics Corporation founder and CEO Dr. Joe "Skip" Garcia, a BIO5 Faculty Member and UA COM-T Professor of Internal Medicine, Medicine, Pharmacology & Toxicology, Physiological Sciences, and Physiology, received the National Institute of Health Fastrack Award to develop a novel immune-based therapeutic antibody for critically ill patients with an acute lung injury.
 
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Most studies have shown correlations between the microbiome and the effectiveness of drugs, but a recent study is one of the first to dig into how these associations work. Better understanding the causal links in drug responses may mean scientists are able to do more with our gut microbes.  BIO5 faculty and UA College of Medicine-Phoenix associate professor Dr. Melissa Herbst-Kralovetz, thinks this may pave the way for doctors to choose the most effective drug for individual patients.