UWM Drug Discovery Scientists Awarded $2 Million Grant

MILWAUKEE, Sept. 25, 2014 – Scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM) were notified that the National Institutes of Health will fund a 4-year program to develop a new drug therapy for asthma.

Asthma is a growing health care problem, with an estimated global prevalence of 245 million individuals – nearly 25 million afflicted in the U.S. alone (about 8.2% of the population). It is the most common chronic disease of children with disparate impact in US minority populations. While several drugs are used extensively to combat asthma symptoms, they are not always effective, disease may become resistant, and side effects can occur.

The UWM team will pursue a fundamentally novel asthma strategy by developing drugs that target the gamma amino butyric acid (GABA) receptor in lung tissues, thus avoiding the use of steroids and potentially enabling a safe, orally delivered medication.

The research team are members of UWM’s Milwaukee Institute for Drug Discovery (MIDD), and is headed by Dr. James Cook, Distinguished Professor of Chemistry, with Dr. Alexander Arnold, Assistant Professor of Chemistry and Dr. Douglas Stafford, MIDD Director. The research team also includes Dr. Charles Emala at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and Dr. Mitchell Grayson at the Medical College of Wisconsin.

According to MIDD’s Stafford, “This program effectively links key drug discovery strengths at UWM; including Dr. Cook’s medicinal chemistry knowledge, Dr. Arnold’s compound screening and drug design expertise, and MIDD’s drug testing resources.” Stafford also notes, “Analytical chemistry instrumentation in UWM’s new SE WI Applied Chemistry Center of Excellence (funded earlier this year through a UW System Incentive Grant) will be used extensively in the asthma research program.”