South Texas researchers reveal projects at colloquium

More than 50 South Texas researchers, including Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, Texas A&M University-Kingsville, Center for Translational Cancer Research and the Texas A&M Health Science Center, presented current research projects June 27-28 on pancreatic cancer, HIV, pandemics, allergic reactions, asthma, epilepsy, preeclampsia, drug development and other major health care issues facing Americans in oral presentations to foster collaboration with colleagues.

The Texas A&M Health Science Center Irma Lerma Rangel College of Pharmacy sponsored the 2013 Research Colloquium at the Texas A&M Rangel College of Pharmacy in Kingsville, Texas.

This program recognized the importance of first-rate research and clinical medical programs in South Texas. In addition, student research scientists and post-doctoral students competed with research poster presentations.

“The primary goals of this colloquium were to showcase the ongoing work of faculty at the Texas A&M Rangel College of Pharmacy and our partnering institutions,” said Indra K. Reddy, Ph.D., professor and founding dean of the TAMHSC-Rangel College of Pharmacy. “We also hoped to promote productive collaboration among researchers in this region, creating fruitful relationships with professional peers.”

Keynote speakers included Stephen Wong, Ph.D., P.E., Department of Systems Medicine and Bioengineering, TMHRI, Weill Medical College of Cornell University, Houston, Texas; Allison Rice-Ficht, Ph.D., Regent’s Professor of Molecular and Cellular Medicine, director of Center for Microencapsulation and Drug Delivery, and associate vice president for research at TAMHSC; and David P. Huston, M.D., director of Clinical Science & Translational Research Institute, vice dean at Texas A&M College of Medicine, and professor of Medicine and of Microbial & Molecular Pathogenesis at the TAMHSC.

Graduate and post-doctoral students competed with research posters. Poster winners were honorable mention Nina Brinkley from Texas Southern University and Andrix Arguelles from Texas A&M Rangel College of Pharmacy, third place Sarai Salinas from Texas A&M University-Kingsville and Alejandra Budiaman from Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, second place Jason Chau from Texas A&M Rangel College of Pharmacy, and first place Hamed Aly-Ismail, post-doctoral research associate, who presented a poster on “Computer Aided Drug Design of Novel Allosteric Modulators of CB1 Receptor.”

Steven Peterson, Ph.D., professor and associate dean for academic affairs, Texas A&M Rangel College of Pharmacy, served as a moderator for each session of more than 15 speakers over two days.

Huston shared his lab’s research on targeted therapy on allergic inflammation. He gave an overview of recent advances and his lab’s studies targeting the beta-c engaging cytokines, IL-3 and IL-5, as well as an allergen plus strategy for inducing allergen-specific tolerance.

Rice-Ficht discussed new methods of vaccine development using natural proteins as the capsule for biodefense vaccines. Her lab has been developing live and attenuated vaccines that has indicated an enhanced immune protection that is directly related to the endurance of the vaccine strain. She also shared information on the Biopharmaceutical Consortium where the Texas A&M Rangel College of Pharmacy, the College of Medicine and the Center for Microencapsulation and Drug Delivery plan to work in tandem to research, stabilize, test, develop and deliver pharmaceuticals.

Wong, whose background is engineering, is part of team that is looking for new approaches for repositioning drugs by using new methods of research. His team developed an integrative pipeline for drug repositioning that applies supercomputing with systems and chemical biology methods to quickly explore cellular-specific signaling mechanisms and uncover off-target effects of drugs.

Sara Lucena, Ph.D., National Natural Toxins Research Center (NNTRC) research scientist, Texas A&M University-Kingsville, shared her research that snake venom prototypes in the design of more effective strategies could lead to improved therapeutics for cancer patients.

Narendra Kumar, Ph.D., assistant professor of pharmaceutical sciences, Jayshree Mishra, Ph.D., research scientist, and Raj Verma, Ph.D., post-doctoral research associate, Texas A&M Rangel College of Pharmacy, shared the research from their lab on the role of the Janus-Kinase 3 in various states of inflammation.

Mahua Choudhury, Ph.D., assistant professor in the department of pharmaceutical sciences, Texas A&M Rangel College of Pharmacy, shared her research on the creation of an epigenetic biomarker test strip to indicate whether a pregnant woman at a very early stage of gestation could be at risk of preeclampsia.

Cliff Stephan, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Institute of Biosciences and Technology, Center for Translational Cancer Research, HSC-Houston, shared ways for academic researchers to collaborate with industry in preparing drugs for the process of discovery to delivery.

Srikanth Kolluru, Ph.D., assistant professor of pharmaceutical sciences, Texas A&M Rangel College of Pharmacy, has been researching a design of HIV-1 inhibitor.

Srinath Palakurthi, Ph.D., associate professor of pharmaceutical sciences, Texas A&M Rangel College of Pharmacy, shared research from his lab on drug and gene delivery for the treatment of cancer.

George Udeani, Ph.D., clinical pharmacy specialist, CHRISTUS Spohn – Shoreline, Corpus Christi, discussed research he was the principle investigator in for treating bacterial pneumonia and drug-resistant microbes. He has been involved in refocusing on developing new antibiotics, since the last antibiotic approved by the FDA was several years ago.

Elda Sánchez, Ph.D., assistant professor and NNTRC executive co-director, Texas A&M University-Kingsville, shared that although venomous snakebites can cause considerable human mortality and morbidity, venoms are a valuable source of pharmacologically active components.

Juan Jose Bustamante, Ph.D., assistant professor of pharmaceutical sciences, Texas A&M Rangel College of Pharmacy, has been researching the liver and obesity effects of fatty liver.  Liver disease is currently the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. and the numbers are expected to triple in the next 10 to 15 years due in part to the increased spreading of the hepatitis C virus. In order to develop therapies to enhance the regenerative capacity of the liver, his lab strives to understand the underlying mechanisms that initiate liver growth.

Bret Bessac, Ph.D., assistant professor of pharmaceutical sciences, Texas A&M Rangel College of Pharmacy, shared his lab’s investigation of asthmatic airway hyper-responsiveness and whether it is due to a disruption of cytosolic homeostasis and thereby switching the channel to be excitatory.

Dai Lu, Ph.D., assistant professor of pharmaceutical sciences, Texas A&M Rangel College of Pharmacy, shared his research on a way to kill pancreatic cancer and suppress the cancer pain at the same time. Lu’s father died of pancreatic cancer in 2003. The hopeless and helpless feeling he experienced when with his father at hospital bedside brought his commitment in searching effective cure for pancreatic cancer, which is one of the deadliest and most painful types of cancer.

Miguel Salazar, Ph.D., Pharm. D., associate professor of pharmacy practice, Texas A&M  Rangel College of Pharmacy, is involved in studying heparin-induced thrombocytopenia (HIT) and its potential adverse effect following the administration of heparin products.

Sherdeana Owens, D.D.S., M.P.A., health science coordinator, Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi College of Nursing and Health Sciences, shared her research on general and pandemic preparedness efforts of residents within San Patricio County, Texas, as well as to identify the most effective means of communicating the risks posed by pandemic influenza. The goals of this study were to help with pandemic planning efforts and to serve as a base of building more resilient communities within San Patricio County.

Rudolf Böhm, Ph.D., assistant professor biological and health sciences, Texas A&M University-Kingsville, shared his research on epilepsy treatment proposals.

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