HB EWSS HBC C NEW Vol. 16, No. 3
he new administration in Washington has made research funding a priority. On Feb. 24 President Obama called for us to seek a cure that would conquer cancer in our time. With newly funded projects such as the KU Specialized Chemistry Center, led by Dr. Jeff Aube, the scientists of the HBC will have the opportu‐ nity to participate in such a momentous challenge. The specialized chemistry project led by Dr. Aube was funded prior to the pas‐ sage of the American Recovery and Reinvest‐ ment Act of 2009 in which the U.S. govern‐ ment backed statements of support for scien‐ tific research with real dollars that will fund a new wave of research. This new funding turns around the trend of the last decade in which more and more researchers were com‐ peting for fewer federal dollars and provides us with an unprecedented opportunity to explore new scientific frontiers.
Jeff Aube creates opportunities for interdisciplinary research Last year, Jeff Aube, professor of medicinal chemistry, made history when he received the largest federal research grant ever awarded in Kansas; however, the scope of Dr. Aube’s work goes well beyond this project. Dr. Aube began his career at the University of Kansas in 1986 after spending four years as a postdoctoral fellow at Yale University. Since that time, he has served as a professor of medicinal chemistry and a courtesy professor of chemistry, interim director of the Center for Teaching Excellence and interim director for the Department of Medicinal Chemistry. Currently, he is director of the KU Chemical Methodology and Library Development Center of Excellence and the newly created KU Specialized Chemistry Center. Last fall, Dr. Aube was awarded two major research awards from the National Institutes of Health. The largest, a grant providing more than $20 million over six years, will allow Dr. Aube to lead a group of researchers in the development of the KU Specialized Chemistry Center on west campus. KU will be part of a nine‐institution network that will work together to understand human health problems. This team approach will give researchers access to additional resources and results to help them work together to (Continued on page 6)
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In this Issue … 1 1 1 2 2 3 3 4 4 5 6 6 8
···········································Director’s Note ····················· Jeff Aube creates opportunities ······Federal stimulus bill provides new funding ······························ Recently awarded grants ··································HBC research themes ····· Established Investigator profile, Dr. Muma ····················New Investigator profile, Dr. Im ························ New distinguished professors ·················· Brian Blagg wins high ACS honor ······································ HBC Science Talks ······························ HBC brown bag lunches ················ Grant deadlines, Upcoming events ···········································Bishop Scholars HBC News Questions? Contact Debra Simon, HBC News editor, writer and designer, at (785) 864-5209 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stimulus bill provides additional federal funding for research projects at NIH, NSF Contact HBC for assistance in applying before deadlines The passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 has provided increased opportunities for bioscience researchers to gain funding from governmental sources such as the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation for facility improvements and research projects. Because the funds are designed to stimulate economic improve‐ ment, some of the new funding competitions come with short deadlines. For this reason, research‐ ers should visit the NIH and NSF websites as soon as possible to check out the latest deadlines and opportunities.
As always, the Higuchi Biosciences Center is available to assist any University of Kansas bioscience researcher complete a grant application. HBC proposal preparation specialists complete forms, prepare budgets, gather university approvals and submit the application under the direction of the principal investigator. For proposal preparation assistance, call Donna Burruss at 864‐4244 or e‐mail email@example.com. For more information, includ‐ ing specific opportunities for KU researchers, visit http://www.rgs. ku.edu/leadership/researchstimulus /#3. View new NIH opportunities at http://grants.nih.gov/recovery/. ●
SPOTLIGHT ON RESEARCH Recent Awards Recent grants and awards to HBC researchers include the following: Jeffrey Aube, Ph.D. NIH/National Institute of General Medical Sciences
Center of Excellence in Chemical Methodologies and Library Development $9,528,802 (five-year project)
Jane Aldrich, Ph.D. NIH/National Institute Allergy on Drug Abuse
Peptidic Kappa Opioid Receptor Ligands as Potential Treatments for Drug Addiction $36,500 (one-year supplement)
Paul Hanson, Ph.D. NIH/National Institute of General Medical Sciences
Probing Diversity Space with Novel Pilot Scale Libraries
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The government hopes this spend‐ ing will be a boon to the economy, but as researchers and academics, we know that the additional studies we will be able to complete will lead to scientific advances with long‐lasting health benefits for all of society and will improve our country’s ability to compete in the global market. In‐ creases in research funding will not only increase the number of working scientists but also the number of stu‐ dents who will be able to gain hands‐ on training at American institutions. Much of this new funding has been placed on an expedited plan and will be spent within the next few months on projects designed to get solid results within two years. The
DIRECTOR’S NOTE National Institutes of Health alone now has more $10 billion in new money available. This will go toward funding previously submitted R01, R21, R03 and other types of applica‐ tions that had received highly meritori‐ ous reviews but were not funded. Money has also become available to strengthen our infrastructure and im‐ prove our facilities. I know that many HBC scientists have taken advantage of these new opportunities, and I hope we will soon see the results of these efforts. Eli Michaelis, Director
$1,098,434 (three-year project) Minae Mure, Ph.D. National Science Foundation
CAREER: Mechanistic studies of tyrosine derived cofactors $350,000 (two-year, six-month project)
Kristi Neufeld, Ph.D. Kansas Masonic Cancer Research Institute
Tumor suppressor APC interaction with chemotherapeutic target Topoisomerase II alpha $35,000 (one-year project)
Berl Oakley, Ph.D. NIH/National Institute of General Medical Sciences
Mining the Aspergilus nidulans Secondary Metabolome $4,771,657 (five-year project)
James Orr, Ph.D. NIH/National Institute of General Medical Sciences
KU Post-Baccalaureate Research Education Program
$346,946 (one-year project) Mark Richter, Ph.D. Army Research Office
Fabrication and analysis of hybrid nanodevices for biodefense applications $485,415 (three-year project)
John Stobaugh, Ph.D. Children's Mercy Hospital/Kansas City Area Life Sciences Institute
A Folate Pharmacogenetic Signature in Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis $25,000 (one-year project)
HBC NEWS WINTER-SPRING 2008/2009— PAGE 2
HBC supports researchers as they delve into mysteries of protein structure, function - By William D. Picking, Associate Director of Academic Research at the HBC
The Higuchi Biosciences Center recently announced the formal recogni‐ tion of six major research themes repre‐ sented by the Center, including neuro‐ sciences; infectious diseases and vac‐ cine discovery; cancer and molecular biology; protein structure and function; drug design and target identification; and drug metabolism, toxicity and pharmacogenomics. In this edition of our newsletter, we pay tribute to the protein structure and function re‐ searchers affiliated with the HBC. A centerpiece of the protein struc‐ ture and function effort at the Univer‐ sity of Kansas is the National Institutes of Health Center of Biomedical Re‐ search Excellence in Protein Structure and Function (COBRE‐PSF) directed by Professor Robert Hanzlik, Department of Medicinal Chemistry. The COBRE‐ PSF recently was renewed with a five‐ year, $10.1 million grant from the Na‐ tional Institutes of Health to conduct health‐related research in the area of protein structure, dynamics and func‐ tion. This center provides research and mentoring support to outstanding jun‐ ior faculty researchers across the state
of Kansas. COBRE‐PSF participants have been located across the KU‐ Lawrence campus in addition to the University of Kansas Medical Center, Wichita State University and Kansas State University; however, a home base for the COBRE and its core facilities is the new Structural Biology Center lo‐ cated on the KU west campus. The COBRE‐PSF is but one way that HBC investigators are providing basic research in the area of protein structure and the roles of proteins in human health. Assistance in this area is enhanced by state of the art facilities in the SBC, including the Protein Purifica‐ tion and Analysis Group, the NMR laboratory and the X‐ray crystallogra‐ phy facility. Additional support is pro‐ vided by the mass spectrometry and new high‐throughput screening labora‐ tories. The rich interactive research envi‐ ronment found at the University of Kansas and fostered by the HBC is clearly evident in the synergistic activi‐ ties of the many KU researchers who are working in the area of protein structure and function. ●
SPOTLIGHT ON RESEARCH Established Investigator
Nancy Muma strengthens neouroscience research at KU Nancy Muma joined the faculty of the University of Kansas about two years ago as a professor and chair of the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology. Prior to her arri‐ val, she had spent several years as a pro‐ fessor at Loyola University in Chicago where she developed a strong research background in neurodegenera‐ Nancy Muma, Ph.D. tion and nerve disorders. Her history of success in maintaining a high‐caliber research program and of training postdoctoral and graduate stu‐ dents made her an attractive candidate for the chair position, said Higuchi Biosci‐
ences Center Director Eli Michaelis who helped bring her to KU. Her presence at KU adds strength to the neuroscience programs, which is one of two key areas that research is moving toward, the other being cancer. Neurosci‐ ence is also a main focus of the HBC. Specifically, Dr. Muma focuses on the development of drugs for anxiety and other mood disorders by studying how current drugs for anxiety and depression work at the molecular level. It is known that such drugs affect serotonin signaling, but by refining the research community’s understanding of these processes, she hopes to be able to develop new drug tar‐ gets that will lead to better treatments. Her research has lead to a collabora‐ tion with the Target Acceleration Group in the Office of Therapeutics, Discovery and Development at the University of Kansas Medical Center where she works with Sitta Sittampalam, deputy director of the
OTDD, on a couple of projects. They are pursuing new areas of scientific study that have great potential for the future. “She has developed a very nice assay to screen for molecules of Huntington’s Disease,” Dr. Sittampalam said. This disease kills neurons in the brain and spinal cord. Dr. Muma has found the roadway by which the disease manifests itself. This knowledge will help research‐ ers develop a drug to treat the disease. This, in turn, may lead to expanded col‐ laborations with other researchers throughout the country. Dr. Muma’s strong research program is expected to encourage other neurosci‐ ence researchers to join the university, which will further enhance the research being doing in Kansas. “She is well funded, has an active re‐ search program and is leading the depart‐ ment’s effort to bring new research faculty to KU and the HBC,” Dr. Michaelis said. ●
Wonpil Im focuses on collaborative, interdepartmental research Wonpil Im, assistant professor in the Department of Molecular Biosciences and at the Center for Bioinfor‐ matics, came to the University of Kansas in 2005 and has been steadily building a body of research cen‐ tered on the computational Wonpil Im, Ph.D. studies o f membrane protein structure and function. Dr. Im received a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in chemistry from Hanyang University in Korea, a doctorate in biochemistry from Cornell University in
New York City and worked as a postdoc‐ toral fellow in molecular biology at Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, Calif. “I was interested in developing com‐ putational methods that potentially lead us to better interpret experiments,” he said. He decided to join the faculty at KU because “KU has an excellent research environment and provides strong supports for faculty research.” Currently, Dr. Im’s lab is attempting to address important fundamental ques‐ tions such as why a single transmembrane helix or beta‐hairpin has specific orienta‐ tions in membranes; what the roles are of hydrogen bonds, close packing, and helix‐ lipid or beta‐hairpin‐lipid interactions in helix or beta‐hairpin associations in mem‐
branes; how these interactions change the membrane structures; and how transmem‐ brane domains transmit signals across membranes. Since arriving at KU, he has been the corresponding author on 12 published articles and in 2007 received the Alfred P. Sloan Fellowship. He is the co‐investigator on a National Institutes of Health grant led by Roberto De Guzman, assistant profes‐ sor of molecular biosciences. He has also been involved in collaborative research with faculty from other departments. “We have been expanding our re‐ search into several different areas with the help of collaboration with KU faculty,” he said. Partners include Dr. De Guzman; (Continued on page 7)
HBC NEWS WINTER-SPRING 2008/2009— PAGE 3
SPOTLIGHT ON RESEARCH New distinguished professors increase depth of KU bioscience research Two new distinguished professors recently joined the University of Kansas as participants of the Higuchi Biosciences Center. In January 2008 Blake Peterson, the Regents Distinguished Professor of Me‐ dicinal Chemistry, arrived at KU from Pennsylvania State University where he was a tenured associate professor. In Sep‐ tember Berl Oakley, the Irving S. Johnson Distinguished Professor of Molecular Biol‐ ogy, transferred from Ohio State Univer‐ sity. These researchers bring a great deal of experience and bioscience expertise. Blake Peterson, Regents Distinguished Professor of Medicinal Chemistry Dr. Peterson came to KU because he was “attracted to the stellar reputation of the Department of Medicinal Chemistry.” Now that he is here, he enjoys the “sunny skies and friendly people of Lawrence as well as the excellent resources provided by the University of Kansas and its partners such as the Kansas Bioscience Authority and the cancer center.” Early in his career Dr. Peterson spent time as a research assistant at the Univer‐ sity of Nevada in Reno, the University of California in Los Angeles and the Swiss Federal Insti‐ tute of Technol‐ ogy (ETH) in Zurich. His interest in me‐ dicinal chemis‐ Blake Peterson, Ph.D. try developed
when he saw first‐hand how this type of research could benefit human health. “I became particularly interested in medicinal chemistry as a graduate student in chemistry at UCLA/ETH‐Zurich when I worked on a project involving making molecules with the potential to combat atherosclerosis,” he said. “One of my suc‐ cesses in graduate school involved synthe‐ sizing a compound that is the shape of a donut and causes cholesterol to dissolve in water. We were interested in studying whether this approach might be useful for dissolving atherosclerotic plaque.” While a postdoctoral fellow at Har‐ vard, his research focus turned to bio‐ chemistry and molecular biology, a step that broadened his understanding of the benefits of collaborative research and shaped his future research goals. “This deep exposure to a new field was very valuable for future research in the fields of medicinal chemistry and chemical biology, where my research ef‐ forts are focused today,” he said. “While at Harvard, I was funded by a fellowship from the Damon Runyon ‐ Walter Winchell Cancer Research foundation. My associa‐ tion with this organization sparked my interest in cancer research.” Since arriving at KU, Dr. Peterson has been able to collaborate with cancer re‐ searchers from across the region as part of the Drug Discovery and Experimental Therapeutics program at the KU Cancer Center, a research center that unites ex‐ perts from KU, the KU Medical Center campuses in Kansas City and Wichita, the KU Hospital, the Stowers Institute for Medical Research, and the Midwest Can‐ cer Alliance network of hospitals.
“As someone focused on basic re‐ search, this group gives me opportunities to meet with both basic biomedical re‐ searchers interested in therapeutics and more clinically‐oriented faculty that can help us focus our efforts on the most medi‐ cally relevant problems,” he said. The group is currently attempting to create new methods of delivering antican‐ cer drugs into cancer cells without harm‐ ing normal cells. “We are using synthetic chemistry to create drug‐carrying molecules that resem‐ ble cholesterol. These cholesterol mimics are taken up by cells and become inserted into the membranes that define the cell surface,” he said. “Once on the cell surface, these molecules can enable cells to take up drugs. We are studying whether our cho‐ lesterol mimics might be designed to react with enzymes that are only produced by metastatic cancer cells, resulting in selec‐ tive drug release.” Dr. Peterson also works with the re‐ cently funded KU Specialized Chemistry Center, which is led by Jeff Aube, profes‐ sor of medicinal chemistry and director of the center. They are attempting to develop new chemical and biological methods to identify protein targets of drugs and other small molecules. In general, Dr. Peterson hopes to cre‐ ate new technology platforms that could be broadly useful for treating cancer and other diseases. “I am particularly interested in de‐ signing and discovering new antiviral drugs that might be useful for treating dengue virus, a mosquito‐borne pathogen that can cause fatal disease that cannot be (Continued on page 5)
Brian Blagg wins high honor from American Chemical Society - Courtesy of University Relations
For his pioneering work on potential treatments for cancer and other diseases, a University of Kansas professor has earned one of the top accolades bestowed upon medicinal chemists. The Division of Medicinal Chemistry of the American Chemical Society has awarded the 2009 David W. Robertson Memorial Award to Brian S. J. Blagg, KU HBC NEWS WINTER-SPRING 2008/2009— PAGE 4
associate professor of medicinal chemistry. The prize, sponsored by the Pfizer Endow‐ ment Fund, is given annually to “scientists under the age of 40 who have made semi‐ nal contributions to the discovery of novel therapeutic agents, or who have made substantial contributions and discoveries in medicinal chemistry.” The society acknowledged Blagg for
his work to create inhibitors of a protein called Hsp90 that have promise as cancer fighters. Because Hsp90 folds other pro‐ teins and helps them to achieve their cor‐ rect three‐dimensional shape, hindering the process can obstruct the constant pro‐ liferation of cancer cells. “Cancer cells continually grow and as (Continued on page 7)
SPOTLIGHT ON RESEARCH HBC encourages collaboration through annual Science Talks Speakers discussed latest work, participants presented posters Each year, the Higuchi Biosciences Center hosts the HBC Science Talks. The half‐day event features presentations by three leading, University of Kansas researchers with whom the HBC partners to assist in handling the administrative
burden of their research. This year presentations began at 1:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 5, in Simons Auditorium. They were followed by a poster session on level two of Lied Center, which lasted until approximately 5 p.m.
This year Jeff Aube, professor of medicinal chemistry, spoke on “The Role of Synthetic Organic Chemistry in Drug Discovery.” Brian Blagg, associate professor of medicinal chemistry (Continued on page 7)
New distinguished professors increase depth of KU bioscience research (Continued from page 4)
treated or prevented by any current drugs or vaccines,” he said. Berl Oakley, Irving S. Johnson Distin‐ guished Professor of Molecular Biology This fall, the Molecular Biosciences Department also added a new distin‐ guished professor to its ranks. “Berl Oakley is a gem,” Molecular Biosciences Chair Kathy Suprenant said of her depart‐ ment’s new re‐ searcher. “He has an interna‐ tional reputation as a generous and thoughtful colleague as well as an out‐ standing re‐ searcher and Berl Oakley, Ph.D. teacher. We are all thrilled that KU was able to tempt him away from Ohio State.” Dr. Oakley’s schedule has kept him very busy since his arrival at KU with a couple of overseas conferences and the setup of his new laboratory on the seventh floor of Haworth Hall. He is pleased that his position at KU will allow him to devote more time to research than was possible in his previous position at Ohio State. Much of Dr. Oakley’s work focuses on mitosis. Initially, his group discovered a protein called gamma tubulin that is a key protein in the mitotic apparatus without which mitosis wouldn’t work. They have
since learned that this protein affects cell cycle regulation as well. “His 1990 landmark paper on gamma tubulin started a new scientific movement that resulted in a better understanding of the essential process of mitosis,” Su‐ prenant says. “If the mitotic apparatus does not function properly, chromosomes can land in the wrong cell resulting in birth defects and even cancer. It is appro‐ priate that his latest research involves identifying some of the secondary metabo‐ lites that Aspergillus (bread mold) pro‐ duces to kill bacteria. Many of these mole‐ cules also have anti‐tumor activity.” Sequencing of the Aspergillus genome has revealed that it has the potential to make more than 40 secondary metabolites, but only about a dozen have been identiti‐ fied. Secondary metabolites are not neces‐ sary for a cell to be viable, but they do help cells compete in nature. Many have prop‐ erties that make them useful in medicine. Dr. Oakley wants to identify the remaining secondary metabolites in Aspergillus and determine what their biological activity might be. “That’s already turning up some in‐ teresting things,” he said. Specifically, As‐ pergillus has shown promise in the area of antibiotic activity. Dr. Oakley brought a new program project to KU that involves collaborations with the labs of researchers at the Univer‐ sity of California in Los Angeles and the University of Wisconsin. He expects future projects to bring the opportunity to col‐ laborate with HBC‐affiliated researchers. “There are some strong programs at KU, clearly, and a lot of potential to de‐
Berl Oakley . . . has an international reputation as a generous and thoughtful colleague as well as an outstanding researcher and teacher. Kathy Suprenant, Ph.D.
velop new programs, depending on fund‐ ing,” he said. Like Dr. Peterson, these collaborations may relate to KU’s ever‐increasing focus on cancer research. Anti‐mitotic agents can be useful in the treatment of cancer as some existing chemotherapy drugs are anti‐mitotic agents. Abnormal mitosis plays an important role in tumor forma‐ tion. Recently, a National Cancer Institute investigator with whom Dr. Oakley col‐ laborates on research found a compound in a drug screen related to Dr. Oakley’s work that is a potent killer of breast cancer cells in cultures. “It kills really effectively at a low con‐ centration,” he said. This drug screen could lead to a new class of anti‐mitotic agents. Together, these two new distin‐ guished professors help to strengthen the Kansas research community. In addition, they bring the opportunity for increased collaboration between departments in ar‐ eas such as cancer research, which demon‐ strates the Higuchi Bioscience Center’s resolve to support research that leads to improvements in the lives of Kansans and and the broader community. ● HBC NEWS WINTER-SPRING 2008/2009— PAGE 5
HBC UPDATES HBC concludes discussion series aimed at uniting life science researchers Topics focused on multidisciplinary bioscience projects The final in a series of brown bag lunch discussions hosted by the Higuchi Biosciences Center was held Thursday, April 23, on the topic of drug targeting and identification. All University of Kan‐ sas researchers were welcome to attend the series, which focused on encouraging collaborative research in the life sciences. A new series is tentatively planned for the fall. “It is our hope that these lunches will open the door for increased cross‐talk between individuals who associate them‐
selves with different research themes,” said HBC Associate Director Bill Picking, who moderated the first discussion in the series. This was the final in a series of six lunches that dealt with subjects relating to the six major research themes of the HBC. These themes are neuroscience; infectious diseases and vaccine discovery; cancer and molecular cellular biology; protein structure and function; drug de‐ sign and delivery; and drug metabolism, (Continued on page 8)
Jeff Aube’s research programs create opportunities (Continued from page 1)
understand basic human biology and to use that knowledge to develop new drugs and treatments. Last fall, Dr. Aube also received an NIH renewal award of more than $9.5 million to continue the Center of Excellence in Chemical Methodologies and Library Development for five more years. The KU‐CMLD began in 2003 with an initial award of $9.5 million. The basic function of this library is to catalog molecules, which allows researchers to quickly and efficiently evaluate their potential for drug development. The KU‐CMLD is one of five such libraries sponsored by the NIH. The information from each chemical library is available for study by the general scientific community through the NIH Molecular Libraries Probe Production Centers Network. The research associated with these libraries could lead to treatments cancer and many other diseases. Eventually, Dr. Aube hopes that KU’s facilities will become self‐sustaining and will develop into a standard resource for researchers. Dr. Aube’s projects put KU on the cutting‐edge of biomedical research while uniting his efforts with that of researchers throughout the country. For KU these HBC NEWS WINTER-SPRING 2008/2009— PAGE 6
Grant Deadlines May 15 Higuchi Biosciences Center J.R. and Inez Jay Fund May 29 National Institutes of Health Two Recovery Act Limited Competitions: (1) Research and Research Infrastructure “Grand Opportunities” (RC2), (2) Supporting New Faculty Recruitment to Enhance Research Resources through Biomedical Research Core Centers (P30) June 5 National Institutes of Health New R01 and U01 applications June 15 National Institutes of Health Recovery Act 2009 Limited Competition: Enabling National Networking of Scientists and Resource Discovery (U24) June 16 National Institutes of Health New R03, R21, R33, R21/R33, R34 and R36 applications This is a partial listing of available grant opportunities. For information about American Heart Association awards go to www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml? identifier=9713. For NSF opportunities visit http://www.nsf.gov/funding/pgm_list.jsp? org=NSF&ord=date. For NIH application deadlines visit http://grants.nih.gov/grants/ funding/submissionschedule.htm. To learn more about Recovery Act opportunities at NIH visit http://grants.nih.gov/recovery/. When possible, please contact the HBC Grants Management Office at 864-4244 at least three weeks prior to a grant deadline for personalized assistance in preparing an application.
Dr. Jeff Aube and Chancellor Robert Hemenway notify the community of Dr. Aube’s $20 million NIH award that allows for the creation of the University of Kansas Specialized Chemistry Center. programs mean the university can offer valuable training opportunities for students. In addition, Dr. Aube’s projects increase the number of research positions at KU and improve the resources available for research at the university by providing additional specialized equipment. ●
May 29 HBC Annual Picnic 6 p.m. at the West Shelter House at Clinton Lake Outlet Park (east of dam, south of spillway). Barbecue, beverages and children’s prizes will be provided. All researchers and staff affiliated with the HBC and their families are invited. All dates The HBC offers travel grants to assist research ers meet with n on -KU collaborators regarding grant applications, to speak with agency representatives prior to grant submission and to fund travel for proposal review for program projects or center proposals. Any KU researcher in a bioscience-related field is eligible. Go to http://www.hbc.ku.edu/internalservices/ programs/TravAward.html for more information and an application.
HBC OPPORTUNITIES New Investigator—Wonpil Im focuses on collaborative research (Continued from page 3)
Researchers discuss a poster presentation at the HBC Science Talks held in December.
HBC sponsors annual Science Talks (Continued from page 5)
discussed “Designing old drugs for new targets; A case study with novobiocin.” In addition, Jeff Krise, associate professor of pharmaceutical chemistry” presented his research on “Exploiting lysosomes to enhance the chemoselectivity of drugs.”
The HBC Science Talks provide an opportunity for HBC‐affiliated scientists and their staff to share research and to encourage and expand future collaborations. It also acts as a forum for high‐level scientific exchanges between colleagues. ●
Wendy Picking, associate research professor; Bill Picking, professor of molecular biosciences; David Weis, assistant professor of chemistry; and Philip Gao, director of the Pro‐ tein Production Core Laboratory. Together they research protein translocation through the type III secretion system. “In particular, we have been developing several methods to bet‐ ter interpret NMR observables,” he said. Recently, they also began work with Robert Dunn, professor of chemistry, to study the orientation of a lipid‐like dye molecule in membrane environments at the atomic level. Dr. Im hopes to expand his role in these types of projects, which deal with computation and experiment combination, in the future. ●
KU researcher wins high honor from American Chemical Society (Continued from page 4)
a result depend on Hsp90 more so than normal cells to allow continuous growth,” said Blagg. “When one inhibits Hsp90, it prevents the folding of multiple proteins that are essential to cell growth. The net effect is similar to the administration of multiple drugs to fight cancer, but in our case only one drug is needed and affects multiple targets simultaneously.” Blagg and his colleagues also are ad‐ vancing preclinical development of related compounds shown to be successful in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. “In contrast to cancer, in which we want to halt the folding of proteins that allow for cell growth, in neurodegenera‐ tive diseases we want to refold proteins that have accumulated into plaques,” Blagg said.
The KU researcher stressed the impor‐ tance of a team effort that advanced un‐ derstanding of Hsp90, citing the 15 or so scientists active in his group. “It is an honor to receive the Robert‐ son Award,” Blagg said. “Professionally, the award acknowledges the contributions made by my group members and collabo‐ rators who aim to understand a new target for cancer and neurodegenerative diseases. Without their assistance and, in many cases, their guidance, we would not have been able to make these contributions to science.” Blagg’s acclaimed research, along with the work of other medicinal chemis‐ try faculty, are key assets to the KU Cancer Center in its goal of winning designation as a Comprehensive Cancer Center from the National Cancer Institute. The work on Hsp90 is another example of “bench to
bedside” drug development, where dis‐ ease‐fighting chemical elements can be discovered, improved and taken to clinical trial — all within the KU pipeline. “A number of collaborators both at the Lawrence campus and at the medical center are involved in the development of these compounds so that one day they may become clinically used anti‐cancer drugs,” Blagg said. “Currently we’re working toward the preclinical development of these com‐ pounds in an effort to support the cancer center’s mission of developing drugs from bench to bedside.” Blagg will accept his award in August in Washington, D.C. — along with a $1,000 honorarium and a plaque — at the na‐ tional meeting of the American Chemical Society. ●
HBC NEWS WINTER-SPRING 2008/2009— PAGE 7
OF NOTE AT HBC HBC Endowed Activities
Bishop Scholars share progress with donors The Higuchi Biosciences Center held a meeting in late January in which Bishop Scholars shared their research with donors Dr. Fred and Barbara Bishop. “It is so enjoyable to hear and observe the scholars share their research progress with Dr. and Mrs. Bishop, who are so truly interested in each and every scholars success,” HBC Associate Director Susan Sloop said. Through the generosity of University of Kansas alumna Barbara Johnson Bishop (class of ‘46), the HBC has been able to award scholarships to highly qualified graduate students of participating faculty. These scholarships are paid directly to the graduate student in addition to any other support such as a stipend, tuition or fellowships, which the student may receive. “Through her gift to establish the Johnson Bishop Scholarship fund, Mrs. Bishop is taking an active role in the pursuit of scientific discovery in the future,” Sloop said. “She is touching the lives of the scholar and those who they may teach or that may be touched by their
future research — a gift that will continue to give to the future of science discovery.” Bishop Scholars are selected from among those candidates nominated by faculty mentors of the HBC. Faculty are invited to nominate outstanding potential graduate students during the graduate recruiting process beginning in late fall and running through February. Decisions are usually made by the end of February. “This Bishop scholarship is a valuable recruitment tool to assist graduate programs in recruiting top‐notch graduate students who are interested in either neurodegenerative diseases or cancer research,” Sloop said. Barbara Johnson Bishop Barbara Bishop was born into a KU family. Both her father, C.B. Johnson, and her mother, Blanche Lorimer Johnson, graduated from KU in 1916. Barbara Bishop was born Jan. 29, 1925, in Kansas City. She grew up in Eudora and received her first KU degree in zoology in 1946. Two years later, she graduated from KUʹs
HBC concludes discussion series aimed at uniting researchers (Continued from page 6)
toxicity and pharmacogenomics. All re‐ search conducted by HBC participants falls broadly within these themes. The discussions covered ongoing research efforts and future trends. A dif‐ ferent KU scientist who conducts research in the designated topic facilitated each meeting. It is hoped that sharing research will generate new dialogues and help in‐ dividuals interested in leading team ef‐ forts to find support and direction for their projects. “Even though the majority of the folks who attend are affiliated in one way or another with the HBC, we welcome anyone who is interested in building or participating in research teams that are competitive for major funding initiatives from the NIH and other agencies. Such HBC NEWS WINTER-SPRING 2008/2009— PAGE 8
initiatives can include multi‐investigator research projects, program projects or center grants,” Picking said. The HBC strives to work with investi‐ gators to maximize research productivity in the biomedical sciences at KU and to help the KU biomedical research commu‐ nity meet research and funding challenges of the future. “In many cases, seemingly unrelated research interests can be combined to cre‐ ate innovative collaborative teams having a synergy that is well‐suited to obtain ex‐ tramural funding,” Picking said. Turnout at the brown bag lunch se‐ ries was good and included broad partici‐ pation by regular faculty, research faculty, postdoctoral researchers, students and core lab scientists. ●
physical therapy program. While at KU, Bishop was a member of Alpha Chi Omega social sorority. Bishop began her physical therapy career at Wadsworth Veterans Hospital in Leavenworth, then transferred to a veterans hospital in Portland, Ore. There she met her husband, Fred. H. Bishop, a physician. Barbara Bishop retired from physical therapy work when she and her husband moved to Washington. Barbara Bishop is a life member of the KU Alumni Association and is a major donor to the Simons Laboratory, the administrative home of the HBC. Bishop Scholars The 2008 Bishop Scholars received awards of $7,500 annually. Earlier scholars who received awards of $5,000 are eligible for an additional year if their degrees are not yet completed. Current scholars are Shaheen Latiff, Carrie McAllister, James McGuire, Heather Menchen and Natasha DeVore. ●
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