UTSA Receives $ 3.2 Million CPRIT Grant for Development of New Approach to Cancer Control
The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) received a five-year, $ 3.2 million grant from the Cancer Prevention & Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT). The money will go to work at the Center for Innovative Drug Discovery (CIDD), a joint venture between the university and UT Health San Antonio, and a place where UTSA continues to make important contributions to the fight against cancer.
CIDD will use its new funding from CPRIT to develop strategies and technologies to target cancer-related proteins, previously considered “non-drug”. An innovative method they will develop is the Proteolysis-Targeting Chimeras (PROTAC) platform. Stanton McHardy, associate professor of chemistry at UTSA and director of CIDD, explains that part of what makes this approach effective is its ability to promote the breakdown of the targeted cancer protein and kill the cancer cell.
“Clearly, cancer is a major medical burden on our society,” said McHardy. “Our ultimate goal is to discover the next generation of tangible, preclinical cancer therapies and to advance our programs and drug candidates to a stage where they can be developed into clinical therapies for treating cancer. “
This joint venture between UTSA and UT Health has two facilities. The first, located at UTSA and headed by McHardy, is the Center for Medicinal and Synthetic Chemistry. The second is the High-Throughput Screening Facility (HTSF) at UT Health, of which Matt Hart is the director. Hart is also an Associate / Research Professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Structural Biology at UT Health San Antonio.
Doug Frantz of UTSA, distinguished professor of chemistry Max and Minnie Tomerlin Voelcker, is co-founder of CIDD.
“To be selected for the CPRIT grant, we proposed a focused and resource-intensive central facility to provide CIDD collaborators and clients with a capability unique to Texas, providing PROTAC design, synthesis and screening, an approach applicable to several types of cancers and cancer targets, ”McHardy said.
The new grant is the second of the CPRIT awarded to CIDD. The organization received a five-year, $ 4.6 million grant from CPRIT in 2016 to develop and support the center’s cancer research portfolio of small molecule drug discovery programs.
This funding enabled CIDD to establish 59 new cancer drug discovery programs. The Center has also conducted research on triple negative breast cancer, ovarian cancer, oral cancer, brain cancer (Glioblastoma), liver cancer and childhood cancer. CIDD leaders also collaborated with Texas cancer researchers and institutions, securing more than $ 34 million in funding for collaborative cancer grants.
McHardy said CIDD’s intention is to provide a wide range of facilities and core expertise to facilitate the translation of fundamental scientific findings into tangible preclinical drug candidates that can be further developed into clinical therapies for human disease.
In addition to making important contributions to cancer treatment, CIDD has a huge impact on UTSA students by providing a distinctive research and learning platform where they can learn the concepts and techniques of the pharmaceutical industry used in drug discovery.
“Ultimately, this provided a ‘lab to career’ transition for our UTSA students, who are employed by leading pharmaceutical and biotech companies,” McHardy said.
McHardy and Frantz also credit the Max and Minnie Tomerlin Voelcker Fund for supporting CIDD’s drug discovery and education missions through substantial philanthropic donations over the past 10 years.
“This latest CPRIT award at CIDD is a testament to how we were able to leverage these donations to catalyze additional financial support through various state and federal funding agencies to strengthen the return on their initial investments in our teachers and our students, ”Frantz said.
University of Texas at San Antonio