UTSA/UTHSCSA OPEN NEW CENTER FOR INNOVATION IN DRUG DISCOVERY
September, 2012Taking homegrown discoveries ‹ researchfindings observed in laboratories in San Antonio ‹ and turning them intodrugs to treat disease is the focus of the Center for Innovation in DrugDiscovery (CIDD) being built at both The University of Texas at San Antonio(UTSA) and The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.Doug E. Frantz and Stanton McHardy in the UTSA Department of Chemistry arebuilding a medicinal chemistry core facility in labs on the UTSA MainCampus. Frantz, the CIDD co-director, and McHardy, the CIDD MedicinalChemistry Core director, have almost 20 years of experience between themwith Merck and Pfizer.³Several top-tier universities have established centers dedicated to thediscovery and development of new drugs that will treat devastating humandiseases,² said Frantz, whose vision was a driving force in the center¹sformation. ³The most successful of these enterprises have included facultyand research staff who bring pharmaceutical industry experience to thetable. Both Dr. McHardy and I have worked on U.S. Food & DrugAdministration-approved drugs during our professional careers and we believethese experiences will greatly benefit the CIDD here in San Antonio.²CIDD Co-Director Bruce Nicholson, professor and chair of biochemistry in theSchool of Medicine at the UT Health Science Center, and Matthew Hart, theCIDD high-throughput screening director, are developing aHigh-Content/High-Throughput Screening Core Facility that will enableresearchers to rapidly sift through thousands of potentially therapeuticcompounds. This will be housed at the Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long Campusof the Health Science Center starting in November, but the high-contentimaging screens are already operational in temporary laboratories at theTexas Research Park.³In order to identify small molecules or peptides that can bind to a proteinor impact a cellular process that could represent a good target for diseasetherapy, you need the capacity to test and compare thousands of compounds tosee which one works the best,² said Nicholson. ³The high-throughput andhigh-content screening facility will bring this capability to the SanAntonio research community. We will offer not only biochemical screens totest how well potential drugs bind their targets, but we will also providescreens of live cells to assess compound effects on cell behavior.²The CIDD is designed to help develop drugs out of original discoveries madeat the Health Science Center and UTSA to treat all forms of disease andinfection. ³San Antonio has always been among the top Phase I centers in thecountry,² said Nicholson. ³But what we¹ve not done very much is takehomegrown discoveries and turn them into the next-generation drugs. Thiscenter is designed to facilitate that.²This is particularly true in the case of cancer research, where for manyyears most of the new drugs tested at the Cancer Therapy & Research Centerdid not originate from the Health Science Center.Phase I cancer studies are conducted to demonstrate a novel agent¹s safetyin patients whose tumors are not responding to existing therapies. Phase IIand further studies define optimum use of the medications.The earliest phases of pre-clinical drug discovery can take many forms.Structural biology studies at the Health Science Center have identified manyprotein targets for therapy in Alzheimer¹s disease, Parkinson¹s disease,diabetes, cancer and other disorders, and teams are in the process ofobtaining high-resolution structures of these targets. This can be veryeffective in guiding the design of new drugs.In other cases, scientists in many departments at the Health Science Centerand UTSA have identified specific cellular processes central to thedevelopment of a disease that present ideal targets for therapy and in somecases have identified compounds or novel plant extracts that can affectthem. ³The pre-clinical advancement of new small molecule drug-like candidatesrequires a multi-disciplinary approach and a diverse platform of researchsupport,² said McHardy. ³The overall strategy for the CIDD at UTSA and theHealth Science Center is to pull the successful strategies used in thepharmaceutical and biotechnology sectors and provide them to researchers tohelp advance small-molecule therapeutics for truly novel pharmacologicaltargets and the treatment of numerous diseases.²Education is another key component of the center. Currently, UTSAundergraduate and graduate students in Frantz¹s laboratory are conductingresearch on breast cancer, prostate cancer and regenerative medicineinvolving stem cell differentiation, and addressing diabetes andneurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer¹s and Parkinson¹s diseases. Inaddition, many graduate students at the Health Science Center are involvedin designing therapeutic strategies to combat these same diseases. Newcourses in this emerging area of academic biomedical research are beingdeveloped and could lay the groundwork for a future graduate trainingprogram between these institutions.The new center is expected to help with recruitment of outstanding facultyand graduate students to San Antonio in the field of medicinal chemistry anddrug discovery. ³Fruitful interactions are also anticipated between the CIDDand the UT Health Science Center¹s Institute for Integration of Medicine &Science (IIMS),² said IIMS Director Robert Clark, M.D. ³Accelerating thepathway of drug discovery and development from the laboratory bench toinitial testing in patients is one of our key objectives, and we are veryenthusiastic about the impact that the CIDD will have in this area.²³Texas is seeing burgeoning development in biotech and drug discovery, andthis new initiative will allow our students to have research opportunitiesthat could eventually have global impacts on therapeutic treatments forpatients,² Frantz said. ³I think this center will be a huge attraction andrecruiting tool for us to show outstanding chemists why UTSA, workingalongside the UT Health Science Center, is on a phenomenal trajectory toreach Tier One status.²State and private funding of $3.5 million is launching the CIDD. Supportfrom the Texas Legislature is enabling renovation of existing researchspace, and the Legislature also provided funds through the San Antonio LifeSciences Institute. A generous private gift soon will be announced by UTSA.# # #The University of Texas at San Antonio is one of the largest of nineacademic universities and six health institutions in the UT System. As amulticultural institution, UTSA aims to be a national research universityproviding access to educational excellence and preparing citizen leaders forthe global environment.UTSA serves nearly 31,000 students in 135 degree programs in the colleges ofArchitecture, Business, Education and Human Development, Engineering,Honors, Liberal and Fine Arts, Public Policy, Sciences and the GraduateSchool. Founded in 1969, UTSA is an intellectual and creative resourcecenter and a socioeconomic development catalyst for Texas and beyond. Learnmore at www.utsa.edu/today http://www.utsa.edu/today.The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, one of thecountry¹s leading health sciences universities, ranks in the top 3 percentof all institutions worldwide receiving federal funding. Research and othersponsored program activity totaled $231 million in fiscal year 2011. Theuniversity¹s schools of medicine, nursing, dentistry, health professions andgraduate biomedical sciences have produced approximately 28,000 graduates.The $736 million operating budget supports eight campuses in San Antonio,Laredo, Harlingen and Edinburg. For more information on the many ways ³Wemake lives better®,² visit www.uthscsa.edu <http://www.uthscsa.edu> .
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