UNMC awarded $11.2 million nanotechnology research grant


Projects include studies into pancreatic cancer, lupus, hypertension/obesity

by John Keenan, UNMC

OMAHA, Neb., (Sept. 17, 2013)—The University of Nebraska Medical Center has been awarded more than $11.2 million from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, funding that will allow the university to continue and expand its cutting-edge, interdisciplinary research into nanotechnology.

The grant, which will be awarded over five years, will fund the continuation of an Institutional Development Award to the Centers of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE).

UNMC researcher Tatiana Bronich, Ph.D., is the principal investigator on the grant. Dr. Bronich is the Parke-Davis Chair in Pharmaceutics, UNMC College of Pharmacy, and the director of the Nebraska Center for Nanomedicine. Nanomedicine uses nanomaterials, small polymeric particles, to deliver drugs safely to disease sites, such as cancer tumors.

Tatiana Bronich, Ph.D.

Tatiana Bronich, Ph.D.

“This will further and solidify our efforts in the areas of drug delivery and nanomedicine,” Dr. Bronich said.

“It allows us to continue our truly interdisciplinary research at the university.”

In addition, the grant will support two research core facilities: the bioimaging core, directed by Michael Boska, Ph.D., radiology department; and the nanomaterials core, co-directed by Dr. Bronich and Dong Wang, Ph.D., pharmaceutical sciences.

The Nanomedicine COBRE provides UNMC with unique expertise and resources, said Jennifer Larsen, M.D., vice chancellor for research.

“Dr. Bronich has done a great job, not only in mentoring faculty actively involved in this COBRE, but in actively engaging other faculty, including clinical faculty, to identify new opportunities to extend this work into clinical care,” Dr. Larsen said.

The renewal of the Nebraska Center for Nanomedicine grant is a significant accomplishment, said Courtney Fletcher, Pharm.D., dean of the College of Pharmacy.

“This grant was first funded in 2008, with the scientific mission to improve drug delivery, through basic and applied advances in nanotechnology, in order to advance treatment of human diseases,” he said. “This five-year renewal provides the strongest evidence possible that Dr. Bronich and her team of scientists have made considerable progress on this mission — and most importantly, has laid out a compelling plan for their future work.”

Dr. Fletcher said the renewal also affirms that the drug delivery program at the College of Pharmacy and UNMC is both a national and international leader in this area of work — “work that is fundamental to advancing the efficacy of drug therapy,” he said.

The COBRE grant will support five projects:

Project: MUC4 nanovaccine for pancreatic cancer

  • Principal investigator: Maneesh Jain, Ph.D., assistant professor of biochemistry and molecular biology
  • Mentor: Joyce Solheim, Ph.D., professor, Eppley Cancer Institute

Project: Renal drug targeting for the treatment of lupus nephritis

  • Principal investigator: Karen Gould, Ph.D., associate professor, genetics, cell biology and anatomy.
  • Mentor: Tatiana Bronich, Ph.D., Parke-Davis Chair in Pharmaceutics

Project: The role of nanoformulated Cu/ZnSOD in reducing systemic hypertension in obesity

  • Principal investigator: Saraswathi Viswanathan, Ph.D., assistant professor, internal medicine – diabetes, endocrinology and metabolism
  • Mentor: Irving Zucker, Ph.D., professor and chairman of the cellular and integrative physiology department

Project: Development of metabolically active linkers (MALs) to improve diagnostic and radiotherapeutic HPMA copolymers

  • Principal investigator: Jered Garrison, Ph.D., assistant professor, pharmaceutical science
  • Mentor: Surinder Batra, Ph.D., professor and chairman, biochemistry and molecular biology, Distinguished Helen Freytag Professor of Cancer Biology, associate director for training and education, Eppley Cancer Institute

Project: Neuroprotective regulatory T cells as vehicles for nanoformulated growth factor delivery to an injured brain

  • Principal investigator: Matthew Kelso, Pharm.D., Ph.D., assistant professor, cellular/integrated physiology
  • Mentor: Howard Gendelman, M.D., chair of pharmacology and experimental neuroscience, Margaret R. Larson Professor of Internal Medicine and Infectious


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