Michigan Drug Discovery awards new round of funding, assistance


Michigan Drug Discovery has awarded early-stage funding for three new drug discovery projects by faculty across the University of Michigan, as well as project-management support and mentoring assistance for three early-stage cancer projects funded by the Rogel Cancer Center.

More than $322,000 was committed in this round of funding, which brings the total number of awards funded or supported by Michigan Drug Discovery to 72.

“The wide therapeutic range for the projects funded in this last round demonstrates the depth and breadth of biosciences research at the university,” said Director Vincent Groppi. “Michigan Drug Discovery is working closely with all of our campus partners to advance clinical translation of new therapeutics.”

The collaboration supports faculty from across the university in developing promising biomedical research toward clinical translation. Researchers receive financial support to access the technology and expertise of drug discovery core laboratories at U-M, helping to advance promising projects to the point they can attract more substantial funding from federal agencies, foundations and industry partners.

The latest pilot grants were awarded to:

  • Daniel Lawrence ($75,000), Frederick G.L. Huetwell Professor of Basic Research in Cardiovascular Medicine in the Medical School, to screen natural product extracts to discover novel therapeutics for treating fibrotic diseases.
  • Andrew Lieberman ($54,847), Gerald Abrams Collegiate Professor of Pathology in the Medical School, to screen for new small molecules for treating neurodegenerative diseases, particularly spinal and bulbar muscular atrophy.
  • Lillias Maguire ($40,000), assistant professor of surgery in the Medical School, to carry out a high-throughput screen to find novel chemical matter to treat diverticulitis.

The early-stage cancer grants were awarded to:

  • Analisa DiFeo ($7,500), associate professor of pathology and associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology in the Medical School, to carry out a pilot screen to identify microRNA-targeting small molecules used to treat ovarian cancer.
  • Mats Ljungman ($70,145), professor of radiation oncology in the Medical School, to screen for small molecules that target the RNA exosome, a protein complex that degrades damaged or unwanted RNA.
  • James Moon ($75,000), John Gideon Searle Associate Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences in the College of Pharmacy, to screen natural product extracts and identify defined natural products to help activate the innate immune system as an anti-tumor response.

This marks the 12th round of funding since the center launched in 2012 as a partnership between several campus units to provide mentorship and early-stage support for drug discovery projects.

Including these latest six projects, Michigan Drug Discovery has invested more than $2.3 million in drug discovery research. In turn, these projects have gone on to secure more than $17 million in federal grants and other support. Several projects have received patent protection or have been licensed by a commercial partner.

The Michigan Drug Discovery pilot grants — up to $75,000 each — support work in five U-M drug discovery core laboratories: the Center for Chemical Genomics, Center for Structural Biology and Natural Products Discovery Core in the Life Sciences Institute; and the Pharmacokinetics Core and Vahlteich Medicinal Chemistry Core in the College of Pharmacy.

Michigan Drug Discovery is funded by the Office of the Provost, College of Pharmacy, Life Sciences Institute, Rogel Cancer Center and, at the Medical School, the Department of Internal Medicine, Department of Pathology and the Endowment for the Basic Sciences.

The next funding cycle for Michigan Drug Discovery will open in early August with submissions due Oct. 11.


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