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Pharmacy Faculty Awarded More Than $1M in Federal Grants to Support Drug Discovery Research

Faculty in the College of Pharmacy’s Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences received 3 prestigious multi-year federal research grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and National Science Foundation (NSF) to develop novel drug therapies aimed at fighting cancer. These competitive grants provide support for 10 student researchers to gain valuable hands-on experience with drug design, synthetic chemistry, and cutting-edge analytical methods.

Dr. Sonali Kurup, Associate Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences, is the Principal Investigator on an R15 REAP award from the NIH’s National Cancer Institute (NCI). This 3-year, $377,000 grant will support her medicinal chemistry research to create new drug molecules called dual EGFR/AURK inhibitors. These drugs inhibit cancer cell division, and at the same time, overcome resistance to approved anticancer drugs. Along with overseeing student researchers, Dr. Kurup will work with Dr. Felix Amissah, Associate Professor and Chair, an expert in studying lung cancer cell metastasis. He will test the new EGFR/AURK inhibitors, developed in the Kurup lab, for their effectiveness against mutant lung cancer cells in his lab.

Dr. Sonali Kurup, Dr. Felix Amissah, Dr. Eric Nybo

Left to right: Dr. Sonali Kurup, Dr. Felix Amissah, Dr. Eric Nybo

Dr. Eric Nybo, Associate Professor, received 2 grants from the NIH and NSF for nearly $800,000 to support his research in metabolic engineering and natural products chemistry. The Nybo lab is developing an engineering-based platform that generates new derivatives of existing drug molecules that are more potent and less toxic than their predecessors. The microbial cell factories that his group uses include actinomycetes, gram-positive, soil-dwelling bacteria that are known as “nature’s antibiotic factories.” He is working to engineer these actinomycetes to produce “anthracyclinones,” which are chemical cousins of antibiotics, anticancer drugs, and various other commodity chemicals. Students will be involved in conducting research in the Nybo lab and the Shimadzu Core Lab. Collaborators on the projects include Dr. Felix Amissah, for conducting cell-based assays, and Dr. Hongbing Wang, from the University of Maryland, to investigate drug metabolism.