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Joseph Fox (top right) leads UD's Center of Biomedical Research Excellence that has won a second phase of
NIH funding. Added to the research team are (top row, from
left) Jeff Mugridge and Ramona Neunuebel and (bottom row, from left) Juan Perilla, Karl Schmitz and Catherine Fromen.
Biomedical research at the University of Delaware has fresh fuel for the next five years, as the National Institutes of Health has renewed a Center of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) grant for a second phase, worth more than $11 million.
This COBRE grant is focused on Discovery of Chemical Probes and Therapeutic Leads and is led by Joseph Fox, professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and the Department of Materials Science and Engineering.
The work of this team of scientists is focused on discovery of new
molecules that can be used to study and treat diseases such as breast
cancer, renal cancer, Crohn’s disease, tuberculosis and Legionnaires
“Interdisciplinary collaboration is a hallmark of UD research, and
this renewal grant from the National Institutes of Health recognizes the
successful track record and the continued excellence of an exceptional
team of biomedical researchers and its leader, Professor Joe Fox,” said
University of Delaware President Dennis Assanis. “Their work will
advance the development of new therapies for treating diseases that have
afflicted so many. We congratulate this team and look forward to the
exciting developments to come.”
The research team will be based at UD’s Science, Technology and Advanced Research (STAR) Campus.
“By locating aspects of this program in the Ammon Pinizzotto
Biopharmaceutical Innovation Center at STAR Campus, UD will coalesce a
vibrant community of researchers working in drug discovery, development
and manufacturing further cementing UD’s leadership in pharmaceutical
innovation,” said Charles G. Riordan, vice president for research,
scholarship and innovation.
Five new researchers have been added to the grant in this phase,
including Catherine Fromen (chemical and biomolecular engineering); Jeff
Mugridge and Juan Perilla (chemistry and biochemistry); and Ramona
Neunuebel and Karl Schmitz (biological sciences).
The grant extension also will further expand the center’s
capabilities with development of a Proteomics Core to allow custom
synthetic chemistry, Fox said.
The first phase of the grant produced many advances, including 11
major NIH grants, and led to new techniques now used for drug-discovery
work by major pharmaceutical companies and research groups around the
“This has had an impact on science and human health,” said Fox. “It
is exciting for the outstanding cohort of colleagues who will benefit
from this grant. Some of our most successful faculty were hired and
supported during Phase 1. There are some real rock stars in there. It
has been great. And the idea that we’ll be able to do this again is
exciting to me.”
The first-phase grant cohort included Catherine Leimkuhler Grimes,
Joel Rosenthal, Donald Watson and Mary Watson (chemistry and
biochemistry); April Kloxin (chemical and biomolecular engineering); and
Edward Lyman (physics and astronomy and chemistry and biochemistry).
The first phase also supported pilot project funding to nine additional
research groups and supported the hire of two faculty members.
Grimes and Melinda Duncan, professor of biological sciences, now serve as associate directors for this COBRE.
The grant also supports two core facilities — the Analytical
Chemistry Core Facility and the Synthesis and Discovery Core Facility.
These cores support a range of instruments including nuclear magnetic
resonance (NMR) and mass spectrometry instruments, enabling
characterization and analysis, small-molecule synthesis, catalyst
discovery, computation and microscopy. More than 60 research groups and
about 300 users keep these facilities busy, Fox said.
Collaborative efforts with UD’s Biomaterials COBRE cohort, led by
Tatyana Polenova (chemistry and biochemistry), helped to purchase UD’s
mass spectrometry equipment. Fox and Polenova both started as junior
investigators through the COBRE program.
“A lot of the effort for all of this comes in the details — people
finding mentors, pairing people with the right person to help them get
their initial papers,” he said.
Fox expressed special thanks for the efforts of Dawn Yasik, COBRE
administrative coordinator, and Katie Brown, contract and grant
specialist, as grant materials were prepared and submitted.
Prof. Joseph Fox received his bachelor’s degree from Princeton
University and his doctorate from Columbia University. He did
postdoctoral work as an NIH Fellow at MIT and joined the UD faculty in
2001. He has built a multidisciplinary program that centers on the
development of new types of chemical reactions.
Supported by the National Institutes of Health, Centers of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) grants
are aimed at expanding and developing institutional biomedical research
capacity by enhancing research infrastructure and developing a critical
mass of investigators with shared scientific interests.
Article by Beth Miller; composite image by Jeffrey C. Chase
Published Nov. 20, 2020
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