Biomedical researchers at NDSU have received a $4.9 million, five-year research grant from the National Institutes of Health for new strategies for targeting protease in disease. Mukund Sibi, University Distinguished Professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, leads the research team. The funding provides continuing support for a nationally competitive biomedical center at NDSU, focused on fighting diseases such as cancer, asthma, hypertension and arthritis.
With the latest round of competitive funding, NDSU has received a total of $24 million in awards through the institute’s Center of Biomedical Research Excellence over the past 12 years. Initial funding was used to develop scientific labs, recruit exceptional research faculty, provide research opportunities for students and conduct science outreach activities in the region. The funding helped to establish the Center for Protease Research at NDSU, along with a Core Biology Facility and a Core Synthesis Facility used by researchers across the region. The labs are available to scientists for research, data analysis and consultations.
A major scientific focus for the center is cancer. NDSU researchers are focusing on breast cancer, prevention of prostate cancer, the effect of nutrition and diet on cancer and on compounds that show promise in treating certain cancers. In addition, a partnership has been forged for future research opportunities with Sanford Research and Sanford Health, headquartered in Sioux Falls, S.D., and Fargo.
“The nationally significant biomedical research being conducted at NDSU illustrates the type of contributions our faculty and students make to the state and beyond,” said NDSU President Dean L. Bresciani. “This research funding further recognizes NDSU’s role as one of the top 108 research institutions in the U.S. with very high research activity, as defined by the Carnegie Commission on Higher Education.”
“The Center for Protease Research’s contributions to help combat disease, as well as providing research opportunities across campus and the region, are significant,” said NDSU Provost J. Bruce Rafert. “These efforts, coupled with our research partnerships through the state-supported Center for Life Sciences Research and Applications and the North Dakota Genomics Institute constitute a commitment to life sciences research at NDSU.”
The Center for Protease Research at NDSU also supports science outreach efforts. Undergraduate students have annually presented posters on their scientific research performed at NDSU, including students from across the U.S. participating in the Center’s summer research program. The competitive program brings outstanding students to NDSU for scientific research in state-of-the-art lab settings. Students from North Dakota tribal colleges also participate in Center-based research. Local high school students participate as part of the Parents’ Involvement in Children, Nurturing Intellectual Curiosity in Science program at NDSU. The Center also sponsors scientific symposia and seminars, bringing nationally and internationally recognized scientists to NDSU.
Phase I of the program focused on developing research infrastructure and providing junior investigators with mentoring and funds to compete for research grants. Phase II of the program included five projects, 11 pilot projects and two core laboratory facilities. An external advisory board of prominent U.S. scientists evaluates the program. It is anticipated by the end of Phase III, the self-sustaining core laboratories will support multiple disciplines, while strengthening biomedical research of the university and the state. Since 2001, researchers associated with the NDSU Center for Protease Research have published nearly 380 reports in scientific journals about their research.
“These types of grant awards are based upon an extremely competitive process,” said Philip Boudjouk, vice president for research, creative activities and technology transfer at NDSU. “It again illustrates the caliber of faculty at NDSU who are exceptional researchers, while providing opportunities for students. The strides made by the Center for Protease Research and director Mukund Sibi significantly contribute to growth of biomedical research in the region. Dr. Sibi and his team have laid the foundation for continued research excellence in the life sciences, providing opportunities previously not available in the state.”
“Understanding the biological role played by proteases, such as matrix metalloproteinases and histone deacetylases in cancer and other diseases such as asthma is extremely important. Our research represents an exciting and emerging target for cancer chemotherapy and treatment of autoimmune diseases,” Sibi said. The matrix metalloproteinases belong to a class of enzymes called proteases that degrade proteins by cutting them into small pieces. Too much or too little matrix metalloproteinases activities can contribute to diseases such as cancer. Controlling enzyme activity by using pharmaceuticals is seen as a potential strategy for treating the diseases.
Assistant professor Katie Reindl is focusing on how bioactive chemicals in foods can prevent the progression of various cancers. “We are interested in understanding the underlying mechanisms of how these food components influence cancer cell behavior, with the purpose of using these or similar agents for cancer therapy.” Reindl initially became involved with the Center for Protease Research as a graduate student in pharmaceutical sciences at NDSU. Since then, the center has provided support for her research as a faculty member in biological sciences, while enabling her to support additional graduate students in her research.
Another participant in the Center for Protease Research is focusing on chronic complications of allergic asthma caused by fungus. Jane Schuh became involved in the center in 2007. “Recently, we have used insights gained with our work and are applying it to another problem. What happens when you have allergic asthma and are exposed to grain dust?” Schuh, associate professor in immunology, veterinary and microbiological sciences, notes the center’s research support, ability to bring together biomedical researchers from different disciplines, scientific collaboration, and mentoring by Center for Protease Research scientists and external advisory board members, all contribute to advancement of research.
NDSU investigators most recently participating in the Center for Protease Research include: Peggy Biga, Kendra Greenlee and Katie Reindl in biological sciences; Christopher Colbert, Gregory Cook, Glenn Dorsam, Stuart Haring, Svetlana Kilina, Guodong Liu, Erika Offerdahl, Mukund Sibi, Sangita Sinha and Pinjing Zhao in chemistry and biochemistry; Jodie Haring and Tao Wang in the Core Biology Facility; Bin Guo, Steven Qian and Chengwen Sun in pharmaceutical sciences; John McEvoy and Jane Schuh in microbiology and immunology; and Rajesh Murthy, Yonghua Yang and Ganesh Bala in the NDSU Core Synthesis Facility.
Research reported in this publication is supported by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health under award No. 5 P20 RR015566-10 and Grant No. 1P30GM103332-01.
NDSU is recognized as one of the nation’s top 108 public and private universities by the Carnegie Commission on Higher Education.