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Home > ARRA Stories > Stimulus Grants Enhance Therapeutic Work
Stimulus Grants Enhance Therapeutic Work

By Gabrielle Olya

October 8, 2009

Photo of Jennifer-Ann Bayan and Bangyan Stiles

American Recovery and Reinvestment award recipient Jennifer-Ann Bayan with her mentor, Bangyan Stiles. Photo/Don Milici

Three USC School of Pharmacy scientists have been awarded the school's second grouping of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grants, enhancing research efforts designed to ultimately create new therapeutics.

Among the recipients is Roberta Diaz Brinton, holder of the R. Pete Vanderveen Endowed Chair in Therapeutic Discovery and Development, who has received a $310,222 grant to continue her research in therapeutic development for the treatment of mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer's disease.

The grant will allow Brinton to continue her work on the development of Allopregnanolone, a naturally occurring metabolite, as a neurogenic regenerative therapeutic. Specifically, it will help her prepare a drug for FDA approval and will aid her in developing an intra-nasal formulation of the drug.

Brinton, a professor of pharmacology and pharmaceutical sciences, is director of the USC Science, Technology and Research Program, a science education outreach program for high school students.

Associate professor Clay Wang's $589,613 grant will be shared with his collaborator, Berl Oaklay, the Irving S. Johnson Distinguished Professor of Molecular Biology at the University of Kansas.

Wang's work focuses on searching for natural compounds that have the potential for use as novel chemotherapies and antimicrobials.

He believes there are useful undiscovered genomes in familiar organisms, and he specifically wants to identify new compounds from Aspergillus strains.

Doctoral student Jennifer-Ann Bayan, who works in the laboratory of assistant professor Bangyan Stiles, won a $77,702 grant for her research on diabetes. She is one of only five doctoral students nationwide to receive this award.

Bayan's research focuses on the potential of pancreatic stellate cells to aid in the regeneration of beta cells (the cells responsible for producing insulin) and islets (the parts of the pancreas that contain beta cells).

The grant will be used to determine how to target these cells and how to develop a mechanism to activate them, which ultimately could be used in the treatment of type-2 diabetes. The use of stellate cells for this purpose is a new field of research.

Bayan has seen the devastating effects of diabetes firsthand. “Diabetes runs on both sides of my family, and the disease has caused blindness and the need for amputations among the people that I love. Experiencing this makes me passionate about my work,” she said.

Combined with the five grants awarded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to USC School of Pharmacy faculty and students earlier this year, the school's total is now $1,720,223. Additional proposals are still being evaluated for funding.

This article originally appeared on the University of Southern California website. Reposted with permission.

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