In the news / Drug Discovery

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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.
 
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The pandemic is exacerbating many risk factors associated with increased drug use and overdose, including economic distress, social isolation, and anxiety. Dr. Todd Vanderah, head of the UArizona Department of Pharmacology and BIO5 member answers questions about these trends and shares his work in providing solutions and advancing education on drug abuse and addiction.
 
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Harnessing the power of technology, the BIO5 Institute will virtually connect University of Arizona faculty and researchers with representatives from biotech, biomedical, and life science companies at the FINE event on Thursday, August 13, 2020.
 
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With only five available drugs approved by the U.S. FDA to treat Alzheimer's disease, the National Institute on Aging has awarded a $6.1 million grant to the UArizona Center for Innovation in Brain Science to investigate a novel approach to treat the disease. The center is led by a top neuroscientist and BIO5 member, Dr. Roberta Diaz Brinton.
 
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The androgen receptor is the major driver of prostate cancer growth and survival. However, almost all patients relapse with castration-resistant disease (CRPC) when treated with anti-androgen therapy. Research from Dr. Cindy Miranti, professor of Cellular and Molecular Medicine and Co-Program Leader of the Cancer Biology Research Program, discovered why these traditional therapies have failed in clinical trials to overcome androgen hormone-dependent CRPC.
 
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The University of Arizona College of Pharmacy has recognized two outstanding faculty members as Educator of the Year for 2020 - one of whom is a BIO5 member.

 
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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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Dr. Heidi Mansour, Associate Professor in the College of Pharmacy and Director of Pharmaceutics/Pharmacokinetics, and Dr. Rick Schnellmann, Dean of the College of Pharmacy and Professor of Pharmacology and Toxicology teamed up to create a reformulated version of Suramin -  the treatment of choice for sleeping sickness - for wound healing. Mansour’s expertise in drug delivery combined with Schnellmann’s pharmacological expertise led them to develop creams, ointments, hydrogels, nanoparticles, and viscous liquids to treat both oral mucositis and diabetic foot ulcers, providing an easy-to-use, self-administered alternative to injections.
 
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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.