UICentre of Pharmaceutical Collaboration

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New initiative of the UIC Center for Clinical and Translational Science includes College of Medicine, two other schools



The UIC Center for Clinical and Translational Science (CCTS) is partnering with the new Collaborative Engagement in Novel Therapeutic Research and Enterprise, an effort to help discover new chemical entities that may hold therapeutic promise and to jump-start faculty collaboration across the campus. The UICentre is a collaboration among the College of Medicine, the CCTS, the College of Pharmacy, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and campus leadership at UIC.

A seed grant program has been announced to stimulate and enhance the application of pharmaceutical and translational research knowledge. Given the collaborative nature of drug development, the UICentre will employ a multidisciplinary team that incorporates toxicology, bioavailability and targeted delivery at the earliest stage of drug discovery—thus elevating biomedical discovery at the University of Illinois to a clinical level that enhances health and benefits the community.

After an initial review of invention disclosures, principal inventors were invited to present, and four College of Medicine projects were selected:

Michael Grassi, MD, assistant professor of ophthalmology, is developing therapeutics for age-related macular degeneration. Grassi has identified a novel target and an effective lead compound for the treatment of AMD.

David Carley, PhD, professor and director, Center for Narcolepsy, Sleep and Health Research and the Sleep Science Center, is developing and has demonstrated efficacy of therapeutics for sleep apnea. Carley, who has a dual appointment with the College of Nursing, has identified targets for this disorder.

Subhash Pandey, PhD, professor of psychiatry, is identifying a novel treatment for alcohol addiction and anxiety. Pandey’s models will explore several selective inhibitors that have been developed on campus.

Scott Brady, PhD, professor and chair, department of anatomy and cell biology, is creating new therapeutic strategies for Huntington’s disease. There are currently no effective treatments for the disease.

Through these grants and others going forward, the UICentre will employ three approaches to achieve its goals:

1. Six Cores that draw from the medicinal chemistry capability in the College of Pharmacy and chemical library of both pharmacy and liberal arts and sciences, enhancing in vitro drug screening and using Research Resources Center and institutional facilities.

2. Project-Based Discovery that convenes UICentre members from the university, pharmaceutical companies, bioventures and others with primary inventors at the University of Illinois toward discovery of novel chemical entities as viable clinical drug candidates.

3. Incubation of Discovery Spores, which will draw particularly on the college, to create and support incentive grants focused on treatment and eradication of specific diseases. These will lead to multi-PI translational research grants and feed the pipeline for project-based discovery.

UICentre director Gregory Thatcher, PhD, says the College of Medicine will play a significant role given how prolific its researchers tend to be when it comes to invention disclosures—some of which lead to patent applications but many of which amount to outstanding research unsupported by an actual drug.

“The primary goal of the UICentre is to take invention disclosures that have a great protein target … and actually be able to generate small, novel molecules that can affect those pathways and engage targets,” he says.

Novel molecules lead both to patents and to greater leverage within the National Institutes of Health in gaining funding, Thatcher says. “We’re hoping the UICentre will stimulate collaborative teams—that will almost certainly [continue to] involve the College of Medicine—and move toward human therapeutics that will have an impact.” For more information, please visit http://www.centre.uic.edu.