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MUSC Lands $10.5 Million COBRE Grant

Dr. Ken Tew Discussses Trends in Cellular and Molecular Pharmacology

Unique inter-college collaboration will establish research center
A unique collaboration between two colleges at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) has delivered a significant return as the institution was awarded a $10.5 million research grant from the National Institutes of Health. Funding for the Center of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) in Oxidants, Redox Balance and Stress Signaling began in September and the project period runs through August 2016.

The COBRE’s primary functions will be to develop/recruit faculty and to build up essential research cores, creating a center of specialization in redox biology and stress signaling that creates jobs, draws potential entrepreneurial investment, and brings national prominence.

The grant, the first major inter-college contribution of its kind at MUSC, is a joint effort between the College of Medicine and the South Carolina College of Pharmacy (SCCP) that splits equally all costs, credits and administration. The highly unusual arrangement involves a cluster of five projects and four cores with five established scientists from six academic disciplines, with project directors from two different departments in two colleges.

"The principal investigators were highly creative in developing a proposal that leverages multiple resources to advance the research as efficiently and expediently as possible," said Joseph T. DiPiro, SCCP executive dean. "This grant will go a long way to help us support and train the best junior faculty members and provide them with excellent research equipment."
The principal investigator is Dr. Kenneth Tew, professor and chair of the Department of Pharmacology in the College of Medicine; the co-PI is Dr. Rick Schnellmann, professor and chair of the Department of Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Sciences in the SCCP.

"This award adds over $2 million of annual funding, helping to expand the ever increasing funding base for the University and creating a substantial number of support jobs for the Charleston area," said Tew, the John C. West Endowed Chair in Cancer Research at MUSC’s Hollings Cancer Center. "Moreover, the recruitment of talented academic investigators fulfills part of the mandate of the SmartState initiative and brings additional opportunities to garner further funding and extend efforts into possible entrepreneurial endeavors."

The COBRE will establish independent careers for at least five junior investigators and assist in the recruitment of up to six additional investigators with expertise in the area. The grant permits recruitment of junior, unfunded investigators and provides them an idealized environment to succeed in the early stages of career development. As they secure their own funding, they rotate off and other new investigators can rotate on.

The grant’s scientific focus is researching oxidative stress signaling. Oxidants and the resulting stress signaling promote diverse responses including cell injury, death, survival and carcinogenesis (creation of cancer). Oxidative stress can result in acute and chronic diseases of the cardiovascular and nervous systems, diabetes, cancer, and aging.

"Redox biology and stress signaling are relevant to many diseases," said Schnellmann. "If you use oxygen, you create oxidants, and they can be harmful. We want to discover how oxidants cause problems and how to stop initiation or progression of disease. This research bridges the divide between basic and applied research. The COBRE gives us the opportunity to develop the field of oxidative stress signaling and apply it to the study of important causes and potential cures."

Funding will also go to develop and expand essential research Cores (proteomics, metabolomics and confocal micrsocopy/imaging) that will be of critical utility not only to the COBRE investigators but also to many others areas of research.

"Since the grant is not restricted to particular disease sites, a confluence of researchers may study cancer, diabetes and other diseases that have a heavy impact on South Carolinians," Tew said.

 

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