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Higuchi Biosciences Center announces the 2017 J.R. and Inez Jay Fund research awards

Monday, June 12, 2017

LAWRENCE — Three projects were selected to receive the 2017 J.R. and Inez Jay Fund research award. Two projects will be conducted by faculty in the Department of Phamaceutical Chemistry and one by a faculty member of the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology.

Wendy PickingThe first proposal selected, “Development of a vaccine to help cystic fibrosis patients,” was submitted by Wendy Picking, professor of pharmaceutical chemistry. She will collaborate on this research project with Francisco Martinez-Becerra, director of the Kansas Vaccine Institute Immunology Core Laboratory; Mario Riviera, professor of chemistry; Josephine Chandler, professor of molecular biosciences; and Susan Birket, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Medicine.

The project will focus on the development and testing of a vaccine that would extend the quality of life of patients afflicted with cystic fibrosis. The vaccine will be formulated and purified at KU using the J.R. and Inez Jay award and then tested on cystic fibrosis mice and rats at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Medicine using a fund match from the Kansas Vaccine Institute.

Michael WangThe second project selected was submitted by Michael Wang, associate professor of pharmaceutical chemistry. The project, “Blood Exosomal Drug-Metabolizing Enzymes for Individualized Medicine,” will be conducted in collaboration with Steven J. Leeder, a clinical pharmacologist at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, and Yong Zeng, a KU assistant professor of chemistry.

Individuals’ response to narrow therapeutic medications is variable and is dependent on hepatic drug-metabolizing enzyme, or DME, activities. However, there is a lack of minimally invasive methodologies available to measure these activities. With this project, the researchers propose to develop an enabling technology to help determine hepatic DME activities in patients using these medications. Doing so will help minimize the medications’ adverse effects while maximizing their efficacy.

Liqin ZhaoThe final project, “ApoE2 as a therapeutic shield against Alzheimer’s disease:  a proof-of-concept study,” was submitted by Liqin Zhao, assistant professor of pharmacology and toxicology. She will conduct this project in collaboration with Teruna Siahaan, distinguished professor and associate chair of pharmaceutical chemistry. The researchers believe that by incorporating a therapeutic shield that uses the brain’s own defense mechanism, the brain could be more resilient against the onset or the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. In this study, they propose to find out if a human protein can effectively be delivered to the brain and subsequently elicit neuroprotective effects against Alzheimer’s.

The J.R. and Inez W. Jay Research Fund was established in 1977 through an estate gift to KU Endowment from Inez W. Jay. Her late husband, John R. Jay, was a pharmacist in Wichita.

The purpose of the Jay Fund is to stimulate interdisciplinary biomedical research activities in pursuit of large external grants such as multi-investigator R01 awards, program projects and center grants awarded under the tutelage of the Higuchi Biosciences Center. All biomedical scientists holding principal investigator status at KU are eligible to apply for one of these awards. The emphasis of the awards is strongly on interdisciplinary, collaborative research efforts. Recipients are selected by members of the Higuchi Biosciences Center internal advisory committee.

KU Endowment is the independent, nonprofit organization serving as the official fundraising and fund-management organization for KU. Founded in 1891, KU Endowment was the first foundation of its kind at a U.S. public university.

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