Michigan Drug Discovery aids new projects to treat obesity, cancer


Michigan Drug Discovery will support four early-stage drug discovery projects to aid work in the Life Sciences Institute’s Center for Chemical Genomics and Natural Products Discovery Core, as well as research in the investigators’ labs.

The projects will share $264,984 awarded in the latest round of MDD screening grants.

A project led by Tomasz Cierpicki, associate professor of pathology, will be funded jointly by MDD and the Rogel Cancer Center to identify new inhibitors for the treatment of metastatic breast cancer and two forms of lung cancer.

Its focus is a protein involved in biochemical modification of DNA. This protein is highly expressed in multiple cancers, leading to aberrant gene regulation, which is linked to tumor metastasis and a decreased likelihood of survival.

MDD also is funding research to identify compounds for the treatment of myeloproliferative neoplasms such as essential thrombocythemia and myelofibrosis. There are currently no curative treatments for these diseases.

This work is a collaboration between U-M and Harvard Medical School, led by Roger Cone, Mary Sue Coleman Director of the Life Sciences Institute and Asa Gray Collegiate Professor of the Life Sciences, and Ann Mullally, associate professor of medicine at Harvard.

A third cancer project is an extension of previously funded work to identify natural products that inhibit a specific microRNA implicated in the development of a range of cancer indications, including B-cell lymphoma and a form of brain tumor called glioblastoma.

This project is a collaboration between Amanda Garner, associate professor of medicinal chemistry in the College of Pharmacy, and Ashootosh Tripathi, associate research scientist and director of the Natural Products Discovery Core in LSI, and research associate professor of medicinal chemistry.

This additional funding will enable the project team to complete the characterization of previously identified active natural product extracts and elucidation of the specific naturally occurring compounds associated with the observed microRNA inhibition.

The fourth project selected for funding in this cycle will focus on identifying compounds for the treatment of obesity, which currently affects more than 40 percent of the U.S. population, according to figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Ciria Hernandez and Luis E. Diaz Gimenez, both assistant research scientists at the Life Sciences Institute, will screen the LSI’s natural products extracts collection for inhibitors of a specific signaling complex implicated in regulating energy levels and food intake.

MDD was established to foster and support drug discovery projects across U-M. The program is funded by the Office of the Provost, College of Pharmacy, Life Sciences Institute, Rogel Cancer Center and the Medical School’s departments of Internal Medicine and Pathology, and the Endowment for the Basic Sciences.

The unit’s executive committee includes senior researchers and administrators from the College of Pharmacy, Rogel Cancer Center, Medical School and Life Sciences Institute.


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