New drugs to combat bioterrorism

The University of Illinois at Chicago College of Pharmacy has received a grant from the U.S. Department of Defense to develop new drugs to combat agents of bioterrorism.

The one-year, $880,000 grant will fund the college's new Institute for Advanced Pharmaceutical Sciences. The center will discover new and effective medicines to fight bioterrorism and assist the college in obtaining additional funding sources to develop medicines to fight other infectious and chronic diseases such as tuberculosis, cancer, neurodegenerative diseases and bipolar disorder.

"Anthrax has been identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as one of the most serious threats of bioterrorism, and UIC's College of Pharmacy has an extensive research program devoted to the discovery and development of antibiotics for the treatment of this and other infectious diseases," said Jerry Bauman, dean of the College of Pharmacy. "This grant will allow us to expand on our current studies."

UIC researchers will conduct four projects over the course of the year.

The projects entail the probing of novel sites in bacterial ribosomes for new antibiotic action; the development of aminocyclodextrins to block pore assembly by the anthrax pathogen in host tissues; rational development of new inhibitors of a key enzyme in fatty acid biosynthesis (Fab1) in many gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria; and the development and screening of natural products for their therapeutic potential against anthrax and other infectious agents such as Y. pestis, F. tularensis, Brucella spp, and Burkholderia spp.

Bauman will serve as director of the new center, with William Beck, professor and head of biopharmaceutical sciences, serving as deputy director. Researchers include Mike Johnson, professor and director of the UIC Center for Pharmaceutical Biotechnology; Andrew Mesecar, associate professor, Center for Pharmaceutical Biotechnology; Alexander Mankin, professor and associate director of the Center for Pharmaceutical Biotechnology; Greg Thatcher, professor of medicinal chemistry and pharmacognosy; Hayat Onyuksel, professor of biopharmaceutical sciences; and Richard Gemeinhart, associate professor of biopharmaceutical sciences.

The creation of the new center, Beck said, "will give us the potential to have a substantial impact on public health and bioterrorism."

"The College of Pharmacy's unique research capabilities, its legacy of innovation in the basic sciences and pharmaceutics, and its collaborative partnerships in the areas of human, non-human and plant genomics will contribute to the Institute for Advanced Pharmaceutical Sciences being a national leader in the design, discovery, development and delivery of new medicines for the near future," said Beck.

The $880,000 in federal support was secured with the assistance of U.S. Rep. Danny Davis.

"This grant is a practical expression of the need to recognize, utilize and enhance the resources of the public health sector to counteract terrorism and to address the multiplicity of health needs confronting our nation and the entire globe," Davis said. "The development of the Institute for Advanced Pharmaceutical Sciences holds great promise and potential for all humankind."


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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