UB School of Pharmacy Investigators Awarded Over $10m & Full Throttle on Critical & Timely Studies

UB School of Pharmacy Investigators Awarded Over $10m & Full Throttle on Critical & Timely Studies

A research team from the University of Buffalo School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences have received $10 million to commence four studies, including 1) examine the effects of drug toxicity on cognitive disorders in older adults with HIV; 2) develop urgent therapies to life-threatening infections; 3) explore the disease of obesity; and 4) craft new treatments for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The study lead is Brian Tsuji, professor of pharmacy practice and associate dean for clinical and translational sciences as well as Qing Ma, professor of pharmacy practice and finally Jun Qu, professor of pharmaceutical sciences. Part of this ongoing research effort is funded by a five-year $4 million award from the National Institute of Aging in the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and represents the largest active R01 (competitive grant that supports mature health-related research) at the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutic Sciences as well as the second largest R01 at the university.

Medicated Nation

In fact, Drug toxicity from over prescription represents a growing problem. As Shannon Brownlee and Judith Garber writing for Stat point out the drug industry executed on a “brilliant two-pronged strategy to maximize its profits: raise prices and increase consumption of medications.” This of course is set in the context of a dynamic society—with lots of other actors including patients not necessarily making the best decisions for their own health care—but nonetheless has led to the growing problem of an overprescribed medicated society. For example, thanks to the always appreciated fact finding of Stat, between 2000 and 2012 Americans the percentage of American adults actually taking five (5) or more medications doubled from 8.2% to 15%.

Enter the first of the UB studies covered by Marcene Robinson writing for UBNow. Professor Qing Ma along with a University of California, San Diego professor, Scott Letendre, head the investigation into how prescribed drugs may impact the mental health of HIV patients—a particularly vulnerable and at-risk class of “overprescribed patient.”  The UB-led group will investigate 20,000 pieces of data and specimens collected over the last 20 years from the National NeuroAIDS Tissue Consortium. The team wants to better understand “how aging interacts with the prescribing of drugs to increase the risk of neurotoxicity and central nervous system complications.” Noted Professor Ma.

Growing Risk of Superbugs: Especially CRE

Building on momentum Professor Tsuji achieved by completing a $4.4 million National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) grant investigating combination therapy to combat superbugs, the UB professor of pharmacy practice and associate dean received a $3.9 million award from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and leads the charge into the scary topic of Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE), a drug-resistant bacteria that can kill up to 50% of the patients who develop infections in the blood stream reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Hospitals are a primary transmission site for this deadly bacteria. Tsuji and team will investigate a strain of CRE that according to UBNow produces New Delhi Metallo-β-lactamases (NDM),  an enzyme that breaks down the Carbapenem class of antibiotics and renders it ineffective. Carbapenem antibiotics can be considered a last line of defense against such superbugs. The UB-led team seeks to develop treatments made up of three and four antibiotic combinations.

Part of Professor’s Tsuji’s study will also focus on the genetics of bacteria and why certain individual antibiotics combined with select drug combinations failed.

Proteins Associated with COPD and Obesity

Professor Qu serves as a co-principal investigator, along with study lead Sanjay Sethi, professor and chief of the Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at UB, for a three-year $1.2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Defense to develop new therapies targeting COPD. The third leading cause of death, the CDC reports 16 million people in America are diagnosed with COPD. Professor Qu will probe into the interplay between microbes, immune cells and lung cells for a more advanced understanding of how to improve treatments for this major killer. Qu’s lab will leverage a ground breaking technique in quantitative proteomics to investigate the proteins within the mucus and saliva samples for insight into how treatments can improve.


Partnering with Wei-Jun Qian with the Biological Sciences Division of Pacific Northwest Laboratory, Professor Qu also raised $1 million from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases in the NIH to study the pathology of obesity reported UBNowTrialSite News has emphasized the health and societal risk associated with obesity—it frankly has reached epidemic proportions and with the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic there will undoubtedly be investigations into correlations between risk of death and obesity.

Qu notes that there is no standardized tests for monitoring the disease of obesity. Hence, this study team seeks to develop improved standardized obesity tests that can seamlessly transfer to other clinical laboratories enabling better, more precise obesity monitoring supports more personalized approaches to patient care.

Qu is a world leader in liquid chromatography—that is, mass spectrometry-based targeted protein quantification—and the UB professor has developed novel approaches to enhance the sensitivity and accuracy of protein analysis. Hence, the team will leverage this expertise and know-how using targeted mass spectrometry in a quest to develop standardized tests to monitor the hormones and proteins associated with obesity, such as insulin and pro-and anti-inflammatory markers.

Lead Research/Investigators

Brian Tsuji, PharmD professor and Associate Dean, Clinical and Translational Sciences

Qing Ma, PharmD, PhD, associate professor

Jun Qu, PhD, Professor

Sanjay Sethi, MD, professor and chief of the Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine