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UTSA/UTHSCSA OPEN NEW CENTER FOR INNOVATION IN DRUG DISCOVERY
UTSA

September, 2012

Taking homegrown discoveries ‹ research
findings observed in laboratories in San Antonio ‹ and turning them into
drugs to treat disease is the focus of the Center for Innovation in Drug
Discovery (CIDD) being built at both The University of Texas at San Antonio
(UTSA) and The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.

Doug E. Frantz and Stanton McHardy in the UTSA Department of Chemistry are
building a medicinal chemistry core facility in labs on the UTSA Main
Campus. Frantz, the CIDD co-director, and McHardy, the CIDD Medicinal
Chemistry Core director, have almost 20 years of experience between them
with Merck and Pfizer.

³Several top-tier universities have established centers dedicated to the
discovery and development of new drugs that will treat devastating human
diseases,² said Frantz, whose vision was a driving force in the center¹s
formation. ³The most successful of these enterprises have included faculty
and research staff who bring pharmaceutical industry experience to the
table. Both Dr. McHardy and I have worked on U.S. Food & Drug
Administration-approved drugs during our professional careers and we believe
these experiences will greatly benefit the CIDD here in San Antonio.²

CIDD Co-Director Bruce Nicholson, professor and chair of biochemistry in the
School of Medicine at the UT Health Science Center, and Matthew Hart, the
CIDD high-throughput screening director, are developing a
High-Content/High-Throughput Screening Core Facility that will enable
researchers to rapidly sift through thousands of potentially therapeutic
compounds. This will be housed at the Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long Campus
of the Health Science Center starting in November, but the high-content
imaging screens are already operational in temporary laboratories at the
Texas Research Park.

³In order to identify small molecules or peptides that can bind to a protein
or impact a cellular process that could represent a good target for disease
therapy, you need the capacity to test and compare thousands of compounds to
see which one works the best,² said Nicholson. ³The high-throughput and
high-content screening facility will bring this capability to the San
Antonio research community. We will offer not only biochemical screens to
test how well potential drugs bind their targets, but we will also provide
screens of live cells to assess compound effects on cell behavior.²

The CIDD is designed to help develop drugs out of original discoveries made
at the Health Science Center and UTSA to treat all forms of disease and
infection. ³San Antonio has always been among the top Phase I centers in the
country,² said Nicholson. ³But what we¹ve not done very much is take
homegrown discoveries and turn them into the next-generation drugs. This
center is designed to facilitate that.²

This is particularly true in the case of cancer research, where for many
years most of the new drugs tested at the Cancer Therapy & Research Center
did not originate from the Health Science Center.

Phase I cancer studies are conducted to demonstrate a novel agent¹s safety
in patients whose tumors are not responding to existing therapies. Phase II
and further studies define optimum use of the medications.

The earliest phases of pre-clinical drug discovery can take many forms.
Structural biology studies at the Health Science Center have identified many
protein targets for therapy in Alzheimer¹s disease, Parkinson¹s disease,
diabetes, cancer and other disorders, and teams are in the process of
obtaining high-resolution structures of these targets. This can be very
effective in guiding the design of new drugs.

In other cases, scientists in many departments at the Health Science Center
and UTSA have identified specific cellular processes central to the
development of a disease that present ideal targets for therapy and in some
cases have identified compounds or novel plant extracts that can affect
them. 

³The pre-clinical advancement of new small molecule drug-like candidates
requires a multi-disciplinary approach and a diverse platform of research
support,² said McHardy. ³The overall strategy for the CIDD at UTSA and the
Health Science Center is to pull the successful strategies used in the
pharmaceutical and biotechnology sectors and provide them to researchers to
help advance small-molecule therapeutics for truly novel pharmacological
targets and the treatment of numerous diseases.²

Education is another key component of the center. Currently, UTSA
undergraduate and graduate students in Frantz¹s laboratory are conducting
research on breast cancer, prostate cancer and regenerative medicine
involving stem cell differentiation, and addressing diabetes and
neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer¹s and Parkinson¹s diseases. In
addition, many graduate students at the Health Science Center are involved
in designing therapeutic strategies to combat these same diseases. New
courses in this emerging area of academic biomedical research are being
developed and could lay the groundwork for a future graduate training
program between these institutions.

The new center is expected to help with recruitment of outstanding faculty
and graduate students to San Antonio in the field of medicinal chemistry and
drug discovery. ³Fruitful interactions are also anticipated between the CIDD
and the UT Health Science Center¹s Institute for Integration of Medicine &
Science (IIMS),² said IIMS Director Robert Clark, M.D. ³Accelerating the
pathway of drug discovery and development from the laboratory bench to
initial testing in patients is one of our key objectives, and we are very
enthusiastic about the impact that the CIDD will have in this area.²

³Texas is seeing burgeoning development in biotech and drug discovery, and
this new initiative will allow our students to have research opportunities
that could eventually have global impacts on therapeutic treatments for
patients,² Frantz said. ³I think this center will be a huge attraction and
recruiting tool for us to show outstanding chemists why UTSA, working
alongside the UT Health Science Center, is on a phenomenal trajectory to
reach Tier One status.²

State and private funding of $3.5 million is launching the CIDD. Support
from the Texas Legislature is enabling renovation of existing research
space, and the Legislature also provided funds through the San Antonio Life
Sciences Institute. A generous private gift soon will be announced by UTSA.


# # #

The University of Texas at San Antonio is one of the largest of nine
academic universities and six health institutions in the UT System. As a
multicultural institution, UTSA aims to be a national research university
providing access to educational excellence and preparing citizen leaders for
the global environment.

UTSA serves nearly 31,000 students in 135 degree programs in the colleges of
Architecture, Business, Education and Human Development, Engineering,
Honors, Liberal and Fine Arts, Public Policy, Sciences and the Graduate
School. Founded in 1969, UTSA is an intellectual and creative resource
center and a socioeconomic development catalyst for Texas and beyond. Learn
more at www.utsa.edu/today http://www.utsa.edu/today.


The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, one of the
country¹s leading health sciences universities, ranks in the top 3 percent
of all institutions worldwide receiving federal funding. Research and other
sponsored program activity totaled $231 million in fiscal year 2011. The
university¹s schools of medicine, nursing, dentistry, health professions and
graduate biomedical sciences have produced approximately 28,000 graduates.
The $736 million operating budget supports eight campuses in San Antonio,
Laredo, Harlingen and Edinburg. For more information on the many ways ³We
make lives better®,² visit www.uthscsa.edu <http://www.uthscsa.edu> .

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