UH Hilo's College of Pharmacy joins UH Manoa to expand biomedical research

September 17, 2010

Seven faculty members from the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo College of Pharmacy will be strengthening a project with UH Mānoa that will receive $9 million in federal funding over three years. The project, funded by the National Institute of Health (NIH), allows the collaboration to continue expanding and improving biomedical research in Hawaiʻi.

Dr. John M. Pezzuto, dean of the College of Pharmacy, leads the collaborative research program along with UH Mānoa faculty members Drs. Eric Holmes and David Haymer of the Department of Cell and Molecular Biology.

“This funding will help invigorate and strengthen biomedical research capacity not only for the College of Pharmacy but for the entire state,” Pezzuto said.

The junior investigators based in the College of Pharmacy have worked with their mentors to develop research proposals in the following areas:

  • Dr. Ghee Tan’s project will look for possible applications in drug development to fight malaria. Her laboratory work will optimize the safety and efficacy of potent antimalarial lead compounds through the synthesis of derivatives.
  • Dr. Leng Chee Chang will look for ways to reverse the progression of cancerous tumors. Her research will search for inhibitors called Raf kinases from microbial natural products including Streptomyces species and endophytic fungi.
  • Dr. Daniela Guendisch’s project will focus on diverse diseases in the central nervous system (CNS). She will synthesize new compounds using natural products as so-called lead compounds and will test them for the ability to interact with nicotinic receptors, which are involved in diverse CNS diseases.
  • Dr. Aaron Jacobs’ research will focus on a cellular process called autophagy that is implicated in many disease states, including cancer and neurodegeneration. His project examines the role of the enzyme diacylglycerol kinase iota and monitors its effect in a cancer model.
  • Dr. Susan Jarvi will study disease tolerance as evidenced through a recent population explosion of low elevation native Hawaiian bird populations despite high prevalence of Plasmodium infection. Her goal is to characterize and begin to define potentially novel mechanisms involved in tolerance to malaria in this relatively simple, geographically-isolated, natural disease system.
  • Dr. Eugene A. Konorev’s project will assess the effects of doxorubicin, an antitumor drug known to cause cardiomyopathy and congestive heart failure. Inhibition of angiogenesis, or new vessel formation, in the heart is believed to contribute to the development of heart failure. Work in his laboratory will examine the mechanisms of inhibition of angiogenesis by doxorubicin.
  • Dr. Dianqing Sun’s project aims to discover and develop antibiotics for use in tuberculosis, as well as to find potential drugs to treat malaria. Work in his laboratory will utilize a natural product library approach to discover and develop novel anti-infective agents.

The funding comes from NIH’s National Center for Research Resources (NCRR) project called the IDeA Networks of Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE) program, which began in 2001. At that time, a $6 million grant helped establish The Biomedical Research Infrastructure Network (BRIN) at UH Mānoa.

See more news from 2010.