LAWRENCE — Three projects were selected to receive a 2021 J.R. and Inez Jay Fund research award. One project has the potential to help patients with Parkinson’s disease, and two projects are addressing the fight against bacteria that cause illness. Researchers from the Departments of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, Chemistry and Medicinal Chemistry are among this year’s honorees.
Michael Johnson, associate professor of chemistry, received an award for a proposal titled “Light-Initiated Zinc Signaling in Parkinson’s disease.” The project aims to understand how rapid fluctuations in metal levels influence the release/uptake of dopamine and other neurotransmitters. This will assist in the identification of alternate therapeutic pathways for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease. Johnson will collaborate with Eduardo Rosa-Molinar, professor of pharmacology and toxicology and director of KU’s Microscopy & Analytical Imaging Laboratory, and Shawn Burdette, associate professor at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute.
William Picking, Foundation Distinguished Professor of pharmaceutical chemistry and director of the Kansas Vaccine Institute, submitted another of the selected projects: “Applying Novel Approaches to Obtain the Molecular Structures of Difficult T3SS Proteins.” In collaboration with Scott Lovell, director of KU’s Protein Structure & X-ray Crystallography Laboratory, Picking will investigate a technically innovative approach. T3SS is a specialized nanomachine that allows bacteria to subvert normal cellular functions and help establish infections. The project aims to acquire preliminary structural data for T3SS to understand this complex secretion system, which could in turn fuel future drug design studies targeting T3SS.
Shyam Sathyamoorthi, assistant professor of medicinal chemistry, received an award to conduct the project titled “Development of New Antibacterial Agents: A Synthesis of the Antibiotic Enacyloxin IIa for the Generation of Therapeutic Analogues.” He will collaborate with Josephine Chandler, associate professor of molecular biosciences; Michael Hageman, Valentino J. Stella Distinguished Professor of pharmaceutical chemistry and director of KU’s Biopharmaceutical Innovation & Optimization Center; and David K. Johnson, director of KU’s Computational Chemical Biology Core Laboratory. The project aims to complete several important steps toward the development of new antibacterial agents effective against bacterial strains that are currently impervious to antibiotics.
The J.R. and Inez Jay Research Fund was established in 1977 through an estate gift to KU Endowment from Inez Jay. Her late husband, John Jay, was a pharmacist in Wichita.
The purpose of the Jay Fund is to stimulate collaborative, interdisciplinary, biomedical research activities in pursuit of large external grants, such as multi-investigator National Institutes of Health project grants, 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 the awards. 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.