Michigan Drug Discovery’s latest round has technology focus


A new round of funding from Michigan Drug Discovery is bolstering cutting-edge drug discovery technologies at the University of Michigan. The $320,000 in funding reflects MDD’s focus on securing new tools and platforms to support drug discovery research across the university.

With funding from MDD, Vernon Carruthers, professor of microbiology and immunology, and Martin Clasby, research assistant professor of medicinal chemistry and co-director of the Vahlteich Medicinal Chemistry Core, will investigate new ways to treat chronic Toxoplasmainfections caused by the T. gondii parasite.


These infections represent a high risk to immunocompromised and pregnant individuals in the United States, where 11% of the population is believed to carry T. gondii. One of the symptoms of toxoplasmosis is inflammation of the eye. Treating such inflammation requires treatments that can target the retina, a difficult compartment to reach with simple eye drops.

Working with Duxin Sun, Charles Walgreen Jr. Professor of Pharmacy, professor of pharmaceutical sciences and director of Pharmacokinetics Core, the team will measure how well new prospective drugs reach infected tissues to levels that are capable of killing the parasite.

Matthew Soellner, Roush Assistant Professor of Chemistry, will partner with the Center for Chemical Genomics and the Center for Structural Biology at the Life Sciences Institute to screen a library of more than 1 billion compounds in search of chemicals that can inhibit a particular protein that plays an important role in many cancers.

This project will take advantage of a DNA-encoded library, a cutting-edge technology that vastly increases the number of compounds that can be tested in a single experiment.

Sharan Srinivasan, clinical instructor of neurology, and Henry Paulson, Lucile Groff Professor of Neurology, have been funded for ongoing research to identify compounds that can treat and potentially modify the disease course of spinocerebellar ataxias, a group of severe neurological diseases.

Srinivasan will conduct this work using a SynchroPatch, a specialized instrument available in the Center for Chemical Genomics that enables users to measure ion flux across cell membranes in multiple samples at once.

Wenjing Wang, assistant professor of chemistry, was awarded funding for her group’s research, which employs newly invented methods for studying an important class of proteins called G-protein coupled receptors.

Wang will collaborate with Ashootosh Tripathi, director of the Natural Products Discovery Core and associate professor of medicinal chemistry, to apply her technology to the U-M natural products collection with the goal of identifying new pain relievers.

Michigan Drug Discovery was established to foster and support drug discovery projects across U-M. Including these latest awards, MDD supports 12 active research projects to find new treatments for various diseases and disorders, spanning cancer, infectious disease, metabolic disease, pain and addiction.

The program is funded by the Office of the Provost, College of Pharmacy, LSI, Rogel Cancer Center and, at the Medical School, the departments of Internal Medicine and Pathology, and the Endowment for the Basic Sciences.

MDD’s executive committee includes senior researchers and administrators from the College of Pharmacy, the Rogel Cancer Center, the Medical School and LSI. Applications for MDD pilot grants are reviewed twice annually.


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