Health Science Center, UTSA gain $4.6 million for cancer research

Adding samples to a 96 well plate using a multi-channel pipettor in a biosafety cabinet.

The Center for Innovative Drug Discovery (CIDD), a joint program of the UT Health Science Center San Antonio and The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA), is receiving a $4,598,728 grant from the Cancer Prevention & Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT). The grant, announced Aug. 17, will support CIDD research to design more-effective cancer drugs through small-molecule drug discovery.

“When we founded the CIDD in 2012, our intent was to facilitate the translation of home-grown discoveries into novel cancer treatments,” said Bruce Nicholson, Ph.D., CIDD founder/co-director and professor and chair of the Department of Biochemistry. “This support by CPRIT will play a huge role in the realization of our original vision.”

Dr. Nicholson said funding from the San Antonio Life Sciences Institute and LERR (Library, Equipment, Repair and Rehabilitation) were important in establishing the center. LERR is funding appropriated by the UT System.

The grant will support the center’s ongoing research in the preclinical stage of small-molecule drug discovery. The CIDD’s innovative work goes beyond the research most pharmaceutical companies do.

“This should be a game-changer for drug-discovery efforts in San Antonio and South Texas,” said Matthew Hart, Ph.D., CIDD High-Throughput Screening Facility director and assistant professor in biochemistry at the Health Science Center. “The funding to our institutions will accelerate our high-throughput screening activities to identify the next generation of anti-cancer therapeutics.”

The CIDD will continue to focus on the most aggressive types of cancers, including triple-negative breast cancer, brain cancer and ovarian cancer. However, the CPRIT funding will also allow the center to venture further into discovering drugs that can be effective against oral, lung, stomach and often- ignored pediatric cancers.

“We’re not just discovering new molecules, we’re designing and creating new molecules that can be engineered to treat cancer aggressively,” said Stanton McHardy, Ph.D., principal investigator of the grant, CIDD co-director and director of its Medicinal Chemistry Facility, and UTSA associate professor of chemistry. “It takes both UTSA and the Health Science Center to be able to do that.”

The CPRIT grant was one of 26 announced through the organization’s academic research program, with the goal of supporting a core facility in its efforts to eradicate cancer.

“This CPRIT grant will boost our capabilities in developing compounds that might have pharmacological value in improving human health,” said Andrea Giuffrida, Ph.D., vice president for research at the Health Science Center. “The grant recognizes the commitment of both UTSA and the Health Science Center to foster innovative therapies right here in San Antonio.”

The CIDD supports research dedicated to the discovery and development of new small-molecule drugs to treat devastating human diseases, including pharmaceuticals to treat cancer. The unique research center is composed of a 2,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art Medicinal Chemistry and Synthesis Core Facility on the UTSA West Campus and a 1,500-square-foot multifunctional High-Throughput Screening Facility in the Biochemistry Department at the Health Science Center.


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