John Buolamwini Receives $1.1 Million Grant for Viral Disease Research

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John K. Buolamwini, PhD, professor in the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences at UTHSC, has received a grant totaling $1,107,890 from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences.

John K. Buolamwini, PhD, professor in the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC), has received a grant totaling $1,107,890 from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, a subsidiary of the National Institutes of Health. The award will fund Dr. Buolamwini and his team’s viral disease research efforts. The study titled, “A Targeted Preemptive Approach to Addressing Mitochondrial Toxicity of Nucleoside,” will be conducted over a four-year period.

“We are very excited,” said Dr. Buolamwini. “This award will enable us to develop a novel targeted pro-drug approach to protecting mitochondria — the powerhouses of cells — from DNA-damaging effects of nucleoside drugs.” Nucleoside drugs attack enzymes involved with DNA or RNA synthesis and interfere with cancer cell growth or viral replication.

A major focus of Dr. Buolamwini’s research is the design, synthesis and evaluation of new molecules as inhibitors or probes of nucleoside transporters. Nucleoside transporters are membrane proteins that mainly carry nucleosides and nucleoside drugs into cells. They are significant for the roles they play in the salvage synthesis of DNA and RNA building blocks, in abrogating the tissue protective effects of the physiological nucleoside adenosine; and their importance for successful treatment with antiviral and anticancer nucleoside drugs. Without sufficient expression of nucleoside transporters, cancer cells are resistant to chemotherapy with drugs like gemcitabine, which is used in the treatment of pancreatic cancer. Nucleoside transporters are also beneficial in treating viral diseases such as HIV/AIDS, viral hepatitis, heart disease and stroke. This research has the potential to expand strategies for decreasing the toxicities associated with nucleoside drug therapies.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH), the nation’s medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit www.nih.gov.