Alexander “Leggy” Arnold, a professor of chemistry and biochemistry at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, has been named director of the Milwaukee Institute for Drug Discovery at UWM. The MIDD was established in 2011 to promote basic research related to new and improved drugs and advance promising drug candidates to later stages of development.
Arnold replaces Douglas Stafford, who recently retired from UWM after serving as MIDD director for the past 10 years.
Arnold, who was a founding faculty member of the institute, will continue its mission to secure external funding for MIDD projects, round out the institute’s research infrastructure, identify new drug discovery and development projects on campus and with regional and national partners, increase MIDD membership, and support new product commercialization and entrepreneurship.
A main focus of Arnold’s research is developing high-throughput screening methods to identify promising drugs and drug targets from large molecular libraries. He also is an internationally recognized vitamin D expert and has contributed several chapters to books on vitamin D.
Another research focus of Arnold’s is the development of new treatments for respiratory diseases such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. His laboratory discovered MIDD0301, a clinical asthma drug candidate currently under development by Pantherics Incorporated, a UWM spinout company.
Arnold has participated in grants from the National Institutes of Health that total more than $5.3 million. His research resulted in numerous peer-reviewed publications and three issued patents.
UWM faculty members affiliated with the MIDD have the technical expertise and instrumentation necessary for a broad range of drug discovery research. The institute encompasses laboratories in the departments of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Biological Sciences and Psychology as well as the Shimadzu Laboratory for Advanced and Applied Analytical Chemistry, a state-of-the-art mass spectroscopy facility, which opened in 2014.
Mass spectroscopy equipment reveals where a compound ultimately goes once it enters the body; how fast it is metabolized and is cleared from the body; what amount achieves the desired effect; and how a compound changes when it breaks down in the body.
The MIDD also conducts pre-clinical studies, forms collaborations to support later stages of product development, and works with the UWM Research Foundation to patent and license inventions.
In the last 10 years, MIDD members have secured more than $20 million in grant funding, produced 21 new or pending patents, and supported five spinoff companies. The MIDD also is an engine for undergraduate research, where each year about 75 students carry out authentic research in MIDD faculty projects.