National Institutes of Health Grant Supports Study of Drug Derivatives to Limit Lung Cancer Cell Growth

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Thomas Dowling, Felix Amissah and Eric Nybo

Several Ferris State University faculty members are underway with a three-year study of elloramycins, or anticancer drug analogues, with grant support from the National Institutes of Health.

Associate Professor of Medicinal Chemistry Eric Nybo, a member of the College of Pharmacy faculty, is lead investigator for the study, which has received a $385,406 award from the NIH’s National Cancer Institute. The National Institutes of Health, based in Bethesda, Maryland, is the medical research center under the auspices of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Nybo said that this project’s funding came from the “R15” Research Enhancement Award or REAP program, which seeks to advance studies at health professions schools with undergraduate students.

“These drug derivatives will be studied for their potential in limiting the growth of lung cancer cell lines, where my focus is attempting to ‘glycodiversify’ the elloramycins,” Nybo said. “There will be significant campus collaboration in this project, as Felix Amissah, assistant professor of Pharmaceutical Science, will test these analogues with the cancer lines, and Thomas Dowling, with our Office of Research and Sponsored Programs, will search for unknowns in the drug metabolism. I am very pleased to have their support as co-investigators.”

Dowling is a Ferris PharmD alumnus who returned to the university after serving as a professor at the University of Maryland. Nybo said Dowling’s peer from that school of pharmacy, Hongbing Wang, has an important role in this project.

“Dr. Wang will handle the in-vitro drug metabolism studies necessary for our research,” Nybo said. “Sky Pike, from Ferris’ Biological Sciences department and our Shimadzu Laboratory for Academic and Research Excellence, is another of the significant contributors to this process.”

Nybo said this study, which continues to June 2023, also provides the opportunity for Ferris undergraduate students from appropriate degree paths or College of Pharmacy students to gain research experience.

“We expect to have three students participating in these projects across the three years of this study,” Nybo said. “With our research activities based in the College of Pharmacy laboratory and the Shimadzu Lab, it should be an excellent experience for students seeking to pursue a postgraduate degree, or to expand their career opportunities.”

Nybo is also leading a research project funded by the National Science Foundation, focused on genetic engineering of Anthracyclinone Drug Molecules.