Wei Li Receives $325,000 Grant for Drug Discovery Instrument

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Wei Li, PhD, associate professor in the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences at UTHSC, served as the principal investigator of a grant totaling $325,000 from the Office of the Director, a subsidiary of the NIH.

Wei Li, PhD, associate professor in the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC), served as the principal investigator of a grant totaling $325,000 from the Office of the Director, a subsidiary of the National Institutes of Health. The grant will support the purchase of a state-of-the-art quadruple time-of-flight (Q-TOF) high-resolution mass spectrometer.

The instrument will have significantly greater sensitivity than its predecessors and the capability to obtain exact mass for both small and large molecules. Compared with the low-resolution mass spectrometer currently available in the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, the new mass spectrometer will dramatically reduce the ambiguity of molecular formula for unknown compounds encountered in chemical synthetic intermediates, natural products, or drug metabolites. Twelve members of the faculty in the UT Colleges of Pharmacy and Medicine participated in this shared-instrument grant application by providing short descriptions for their research projects to justify the need for the equipment.

“We are very grateful to the strong institutional support from the College of Pharmacy and the campus administration, which is very important for the success of this grant,” said Dr. Li. “This is the second NIH shared-instrument grant we obtained recently. A similar grant was awarded in late 2010 for the purchase of a new 400 megahertz (MHz) NMR (nuclear magnetic resonance) system. The addition of the 400 MHz NMR and this new high- resolution mass spectrometer will significantly enhance the research capability provided to investigators across the campus by our shared-instrument facility.”

This instrument will support many extensive small-molecular drug discovery and drug delivery programs for faculty at UTHSC in the areas of cancer, obesity, diabetes, radiation protection, radiation mitigation, bacteria inflection, and inflammation diseases. In addition, local biotechnology companies such as GTx, Inc., and RxBio, Inc., will also benefit from indirect access to this sophisticated instrument through established service contracts with the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences.

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.