Wyeth Corporation comes to the aid of UH Hilo's College of Pharmacy

August 28, 2009

The University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo College of Pharmacy will soon install a major instrument that will help further research at the University, thanks to a gift from the Wyeth Corporation.

The Bruker-Biospin Avance DRX 400 is a 400-megahertz nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometer (NMR) valued at a quarter million dollars, which will be used to identify the structures of unknown chemicals including potential new drugs. The equipment is being configured at the new laboratory space off Stainback Highway currently occupied by Pharmacy until the growing College has a permanent home.

“The gift of the NMR from Wyeth removes a major impediment to scientific research that must compete on a national or international scale,” said Dr. Robert P. Borris, associate dean for research at the College of Pharmacy. “Not having this kind of equipment tells federal funding agencies such as the National Science Foundation that we don’t have the facilities in which to do cutting edge research. Having the NMR at UH Hilo means we won’t have to travel to Oʻahu or to the mainland to conduct our work. We’re very grateful to Wyeth for helping us to establish a cutting-edge scientific base for students at UH Hilo.”

Pharmacy collaborates with faculty in chemistry, biology and biochemistry, and hopes to give ample access to anyone at UH Hilo in need of this fundamental tool for analytical chemistry, Borris said. Many of the faculty have used similar equipment, but will have to complete one or two days of training specific to this particular instrument.

The NMR uses the behavior of atoms in a strong magnetic field to help identify the structure of chemicals, both alone and in mixtures. Research that would require a NMR might ultimately result in the discovery of a new drug, which may have been synthesized in the laboratory or isolated from some natural product.

Dr. Guy T. Carter, assistant vice president of chemical technologies at Wyeth Research’s Chemical & Screening Sciences, said that Wyeth tries to place retired equipment that is still functional with an academic research group that will derive the greatest benefit. The drug company, based in New York, typically chooses institutions that are in close proximity to one of their sites, such as Columbia University in Manhattan and Temple University in Philadelphia. Carter said he was able to direct the NMR to UH Hilo through personal communications with Borris.

“I find it personally gratifying that the instrument will enable UH Hilo students to have access to high quality NMR data for their studies," Carter said. “I am particularly hopeful that the NMR will be valuable in advancing research in natural products drug discovery, which we are passionate about at Wyeth.”

The gift is a signal of support from the pharmaceutical industry for the growing College of Pharmacy, said Dean John M. Pezzuto.

“We are competing for the same funding that universities everywhere need, so it’s absolutely critical that we can rely on the pharmaceutical industry,” Pezzuto said. “Support from Wyeth Research is reassuring because it shows we’re headed in the right direction. We are determined to continue on our planned path to improve healthcare in Hawaiʻi and the Pacific region.”

See more news from 2009.