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UWM Drug Discovery Scientists Awarded $2 Million Grant to Develop New Asthma Therapy

MILWAUKEE, Sept. 25, 2014 – Scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM) were notified that the National Institutes of Health will fund a 4-year program to develop a new drug therapy for asthma.

Asthma is a growing health care problem, with an estimated global prevalence of 245 million individuals - nearly 25 million afflicted in the U.S. alone (about 8.2% of the population). It is the most common chronic disease of children with disparate impact in US minority populations. While several drugs are used extensively to combat asthma symptoms, they are not always effective, disease may become resistant, and side effects can occur.

The UWM team will pursue a fundamentally novel asthma strategy by developing drugs that target the gamma amino butyric acid (GABA) receptor in lung tissues, thus avoiding the use of steroids and potentially enabling a safe, orally delivered medication.

The research team are members of UWM’s Milwaukee Institute for Drug Discovery (MIDD), and is headed by Dr. James Cook, Distinguished Professor of Chemistry, with Dr. Alexander Arnold, Assistant Professor of Chemistry and Dr. Douglas Stafford, MIDD Director. The research team also includes Dr. Charles Emala at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and Dr. Mitchell Grayson at the Medical College of Wisconsin.

According to MIDD’s Stafford, “This program effectively links key drug discovery strengths at UWM; including Dr. Cook’s medicinal chemistry knowledge, Dr. Arnold’s compound screening and drug design expertise, and MIDD’s drug testing resources.” Stafford also notes, “Analytical chemistry instrumentation in UWM’s new SE WI Applied Chemistry Center of Excellence (funded earlier this year through a UW System Incentive Grant) will be used extensively in the asthma research program.”

SE WI Applied Chemistry Center of Excellence

In early 2014, UWM’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry in partnership with the Milwaukee Institute for Drug Discovery and UW-Parkside was awarded an Incentive Grant from the University of Wisconsin System to launch the “SE Wisconsin Applied Chemistry Center of Excellence.” This $3 million grant focuses on strengthening applied chemistry resources in SE Wisconsin that will enhance chemistry education, university-industry collaborative research, and student internships; all with the aim of stimulating regional business vitality.

The Center is principally housed in UWM’s Chemistry Building within the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. The grant funds support:

• New Laboratory Facilities – To facilitate rapid start-up of Center operations a new analytical laboratory in UWM’s Chemistry Building has been renovated. This facility (Chemistry Room 283) houses the Shimadzu Laboratory for Advanced and Applied Analytical Chemistry (see below). In spring 2015 the laboratory will move to the newly constructed Kenwood-Interdisciplinary Research Complex, which will include approximately 2,000 square feet of lab spaces that will host a wet lab, tissue culture lab, instrumentation spaces, and offices.

• Technical training course – To maximally use the new analytical instrumentation, classes are now being offered on a rolling basis to train graduate students, post-docs, and faculty on operation and data analysis.

• Translational grant program – Eleven grant proposals were funded (totaling approximately $750,000) to support research involving collaboration between UWM and UWP faculty and Wisconsin businesses.

• Transitional skills/internship course – An upper level undergraduate chemistry course entitled “Scientist Career Transitions” was developed and offered at UWM. Examples of course topics include: business organizations, professionalism, conflict resolution, regulation, cross-functional teams, intellectual property, project management, and entrepreneurship. In connection with the classroom experience, the Incentive Grant provides funds to support student internships (scholarships for academic credits) and salary support.

The Shimadzu Laboratory for Advanced and Applied Analytical Chemistry

In connection with the Incentive Grant, UWM’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry received a grant from Shimadzu Scientific Instruments, Inc. in the amount of $1.13 million to offset the cost of analytical instrumentation. With Shimadzu’s support a world-class suite of instruments is now in place in the Department and available for education, faculty research programs, collaborative projects, and sponsored research. In recognition of Shimadzu’s generous support, the new laboratory is named the “Shimadzu Laboratory for Advanced and Applied Analytical Chemistry.”

Instrumentation includes the following Shimadzu products:

• MALDI-7090 with AccuSpot and CHIP (MALDI TOF-TOF platform for proteomics, metabolomics, and tissue imaging)

• LC-MS-IT-TOF (hybrid UPLC with integrated ion trap and TOF systems)

• GC-MS QP-2010 Ultra with DI probe

• Triple Quad LCMS-8040 (with high speed positive/negative ionization switching)

• LC-MS-2020 single quad

• ICP Mass Spectrometer


• UV-2600 spectrometer