Researchers at UNMC receive $12 million boost in funding

by Lisa Spellman, UNMC public affairs | June 20, 2008

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Howard Gendelman, M.D.
The field of neurodegenerative research at UNMC just got a $12 million boost in funding.

Researchers in the UNMC Department of Pharmacology and Experimental Neuroscience (PEN) have secured funding for seven grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and a pharmaceutical company to study three distinct areas related to neurodegenerative disorders.

The grants are a significant contribution to the already growing body of neuroscience research developed by the department in recent years. Lead scientists include Howard Gendelman, M.D., chairman of the department; Georgette Kanmogne, Ph.D., associate professor; Jialin Zheng, M.D., associate professor; and James Haorah, Ph.D., assistant professor.

Four of the grants exceed $1 million.

The largest grant is a $5.8 million program project grant led by Dr. Gendelman that pulls together the work of several investigators who study therapeutic immune-based strategies for improved drug delivery to the brain.

Nanoparticles are the focus of a $2.3 million grant that looks at ways to improve the delivery of anti-retroviral drugs commonly used to treat HIV.

Another grant for $1.8 million looks into therapeutic immunization to promote neuroprotection from Parkinson's disease and HIV-associated dementia.

Four additional grants secured by other members of the department look at neurodegeneration related to AIDS and alcohol consumption, and drug development for Parkinson's disease.

"Through vision and growth, we have evolved into an interdisciplinary team spanning neuroscience, immunology and pharmacology research," Dr. Gendelman said.

In addition to the four lead scientists, other investigators include:

  • Michael Boska, Ph.D., professor and head of radiology research;
  • Tsuneya Ikezu, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor;
  • Pawel Ciborowski, Ph.D., assistant professor;
  • R. Lee Mosley, Ph.D., associate professor;
  • Larisa Poluektova, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor; and
  • Yuri Persidsky, M.D., Ph.D., a former UNMC professor who is the newly named chairman of the department of pathology and laboratory medicine at Temple University in Philadelphia.

The grants, the investigators working on them and a brief description of each follows:

Neural Immunity in HIV Dementia, a program project grant
Principal Investigator: Howard Gendelman, M.D.
Funding Source: NIH, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
Amount: $5.8 million over five years

This grant proposes to use the intracellular processes in the brain to harness the immune responses created by it as a therapeutic benefit for people with HIV-induced dementia.

Nanomedicine and NeuroAIDS
Principal Investigator: Howard Gendelman, M.D.
Funding Source: NIH, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
Amount: $2.3 million over five years

This grant will use nanomedicine to deliver commonly used antiretroviral therapies directly to diseased brain tissue.

Neuroprotective immunity and HIV dementia
Principal Investigator: Howard Gendelman, M.D.
Funding Source: NIH, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
Amount: $1.8 million over five years

The current proposal will study the mechanisms of how the immune system can be regulated to protect the brain despite a relentless attack by the virus.

Blood brain barrier immune compromise in NeuroAIDS
Principal Investigator: Georgette Kanmogne, Ph.D.
Funding Source: NIH, National Institute of Mental Health
Amount: $1.4 million over five years

This grant will focus on understanding how HIV damages the brain's protective blood brain barrier, enters the brain and causes dementia.

Alcohol abuse and blood-brain barrier dysfunction: Underlying mechanisms
Principal Investigator: James Haorah, Ph.D.
Funding Source: NIH, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
Amount: $385,876 for two years

This grant will study the mechanism of alcohol abuse disruption of the blood brain barrier.

Clade Diversity and Macrophage Mediated Neurotoxicity in HIV-1 Dementia
Principal Investigator: Jialin Zheng, M.D.
Funding Source: NIH, National Institute of Mental Health
Amount: $416,375 for two years

This study will look at the difference between two subtypes of HIV and the potential implications of those differences for HIV-induced dementia.

Drug Development and Testing for Parkinson's disease
Principal Investigator: Howard Gendelman, M.D.
Funding source: BioLine RX
Amount: $126,000 for one year

This study seeks to improve the current treatment regimens offered for Parkinson's disease.