LAWRENCE — The University of Kansas’ Center for Molecular Analysis of Disease Pathways, a National Institutes of Health Center of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE), recently earned a second phase of grant funding in the amount of $10.8 million for an additional five years.
Originally established in 2012, the grant enables KU researchers and others across the state of Kansas to create tools for biomedical science and better understand the genetic, chemical and physical basis of a range of diseases, including cancer, neurological disorders, and pulmonary and cardiovascular diseases.
The center capitalizes on the current strengths of KU in the fields of bioanalytical chemistry, molecular design, genomics and bioengineering. Susan Lunte, the Ralph N. Adams Distinguished Professor in the Departments of Chemistry & Pharmaceutical Chemistry and director of the Ralph N. Adams Institute for Bioanalytical Chemistry, remains the director and principal investigator of the grant. She is again joined on the project by co-investigators Blake Peterson, Regents Distinguished Professor of Medicinal Chemistry, and Professor Erik Lundquist of the Department of Molecular Biosciences, where he is also director of the Genetics Program.
“With the award of the COBRE’s second phase of funding, the Center for Molecular Analysis of Disease Pathways will continue to enable KU researchers to make breakthroughs in numerous areas of research in health and science as relates to the theme of the center,” Lunte said. “These include innovative new approaches to investigate cancer, neurodegeneration, cardiovascular disease and bacterial infections.”
The center’s three core facilities were established during Phase I and are focused on providing tools for junior investigators working on the development or application of new enabling technologies to study disease pathway. These facilities are also available to researchers at KU and other universities in the region:
- The Genome Sequencing Core provides researchers with next-generation sequencing technologies, as well as experimental design and analysis of sequence data. The core is involved in the identification of genetic (genotypic) elements that underlie the disease and disease pathways.
- The Microfabrication & Microfluidics Core makes resources and personnel available for the production of micro- and nano-scale devices to be used by project investigators for their studies. Equipment and training are available to investigators for the fabrication of devices for biomedical, biophysical and bioanalytical studies related to disease pathways.
- The Synthetic Chemical Biology Core offers expert design of molecular probes and synthesis of both small molecules and peptides, with an emphasis on the generation of fluorescent and other tagged molecules, as well as bioassays of molecular probes, including in vitro whole cell assays and in vivo assays using zebrafish.
“During our first phase of funding, we established three very active research core labs that support research at KU and regional institutions,” Lunte said. “These labs focus on state of the art genomic analysis, fabrication of lab-on-a-chip devices and synthesis of novel molecular probes. These new core labs have been a critical component of recruiting new faculty members to KU. This includes several assistant professors and one Foundation Professor. The grant also provides opportunities for faculty at KU, Kansas State and other Board of Regents universities statewide to receive individual project funding or vouchers to use core lab services to further their research.”
The center currently supports the disease pathway-related research of five other faculty members at KU and Kansas State University: from KU, Arghya Paul, chemical & petroleum engineering, and Mei He, chemistry and chemical & petroleum engineering, and Josephine Chandler and Christian Ray, molecular biosciences; from KSU, Jodi McGill, diagnostic medicine/pathobiology. In its first phase of funding, the center awarded research funds to a total of 16 faculty investigators at KU and KSU.
Lunte’s center is joined on campus by two other NIH-funded COBRE centers: the Center in Protein Structure and Function, led by Robert Hanzlik, medicinal chemistry, is in its 14th year; and the Center for Chemical Biology of Infectious Disease, led by Thomas Prisinzano, medicinal chemistry, is in its second year.
At top: From left, faculty leadership for the COBRE grant to University of Kansas’ Center for Molecular Analysis of Disease Pathways: Blake Peterson, Susan Lunte, Erik Lundquist. Credit: KU
At right: A researcher in the Microfabrication & Microfluidics Core. Credits: KU.