UTSA, UT Health Science Center win $1.5M from San Antonio Life Sciences Institute

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(March 16, 2010)--Researchers at The University of Texas at San Antonio and the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio jointly announced nine new collaborative life sciences research and educational projects supported by $1.5 million in funding from the San Antonio Life Sciences Institute (SALSI).

Established by the 77th session of the Texas Legislature and funded for the current biennium for $8 million, SALSI is an initiative that aims to increase the research-funding base, biomedical education programs and biomedical-biotechnology commercialization through collaborative synergies from UTSA and the Health Science Center. Target research areas include, but are not limited to, bioengineering, health disparities, medicinal chemistry, prosthetics-regenerative medicine and neuroscience.

"San Antonio is home to some of the best health sciences researchers in the world," said Robert Gracy, UTSA vice president for research. "When scientists, engineers, clinicians, educators and other health-care delivery professionals from UTSA and the Health Science Center bring their different backgrounds, perspectives and skills to their work, great synergy is achieved and complex health problems can be solved."

"SALSI has already shown itself to be a success in that it has stimulated a number of new research, educational and technology transfer collaborations between the Health Science Center and UTSA, attracted significant extramural funding and created a framework to allow efficient and effective collaboration between the Health Science Center, UTSA and other UT System institutions," said Brian Herman, vice president for research at the Health Science Center.

The SALSI awards will support these research and educational initiatives:

Microencapsulated Delivery of Oncolytic Respiratory Syncytial Virus for Targeting Prostate Tumor In Vivo
Principal Investigators: Yusheng Feng, UTSA; Santanu Bose, Health Science Center

Researchers will design, inject and analyze microencapsulated viruses that are proven to be effective in killing cancer cells.

Preclinical Optimization of a Novel Antitumor Agent CB694
Principal Investigators: Doug Frantz, UTSA; Susan Mooberry, Health Science Center

Researchers will use classical approaches in medicinal chemistry to improve the drug-like characteristics of a variety of anti-cancer molecules that have the potential to treat human cancers. They hope to identify a new drug candidate suitable for phase I human clinical trials.

Whole-Spectrum Fluorescence Microscopy with Ultrafast Supercontinuum Excitation
Principal Investigators: JingYong Ye, UTSA; James Lechleiter, Health Science Center

Researchers will develop a new approach to detect multicolor fluorescent biomarkers for cellular functions and biological processes, supporting optical instrument improvements.

Aging, Hearing Loss and the Cocktail-Party Problem
Principal Investigators: Rama Ratnam, UTSA; Suzette Tardif, Health Science Center

Elderly listeners are unable to understand speech in noisy surroundings. Researchers will study brain mechanisms that are impaired with aging in the peripheral auditory system.

Neighborhood-Level Nutritional Assessments as an Innovative Teaching Approach to Understanding Root Causes of Health Disparities
Principal Investigators: Thankam Sunil, UTSA; Adelita Cantu, Health Science Center

Students will gather population-level nutritional data from two targeted zip codes and study its relationship to a significant health disparity. Research provides students with a more robust understanding of the environmental determinants of health disparities which in turn will assist in the treatment of their future patients and clients.

A Computational Proteomics Approach for Genome-wide Identifying MicroRNA Targets
Principal Investigators: Michelle Zhang, UTSA; Shou-jiang Gao, Health Science Center

Researchers will develop and apply mathematics algorithms to analyze changes in protein levels due to microRNA transfection. MicroRNA regulates a wide range of biological processes and diseases including development, stress responses, viral infections and cancer.

Dysregulation of Ocular Blood Flow in Glaucoma: Application of Novel MRI Technologies
Principal Investigators: Rena Bizios, UTSA; Timothy Duong, Health Science Center

Multidisciplinary team of researchers will identify and establish biomarkers of early glaucoma, a leading cause of irreversible blindness that could be used in the diagnosis, prevention and/or treatment of the disease.

Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine: New Solutions to Old Problems
Principal Investigators: John McCarrey, UTSA; Christi Walter; Health Science Center

Funding will support "Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine -- New Solutions to Old Problems," an October 2010 conference focusing on the region's expertise in stem cells and regenerative medicine. The nation's leading stem cell research and regenerative medicine experts will also deliver presentations.

Molecular Changes in Aging Breast Stroma
Principal Investigators: Jianhua Ruan, UTSA; Rong Li, Health Science Center

Researchers will explore age-related changes in estrogen production as a way of understanding age-associated risk for breast cancer.

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The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio

The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, one of the country's leading health sciences universities, ranks in the top 2 percent of all U.S. institutions receiving federal funding. Research and other sponsored program activity totaled a record $259 million in fiscal year 2009. The university's schools of medicine, nursing, dentistry, health professions and graduate biomedical sciences have produced 27,000 graduates. The $753 million operating budget supports six campuses in San Antonio, Laredo, Harlingen and Edinburg.

The University of Texas at San Antonio

UTSA is one of the fastest growing higher education institutions in Texas and the second largest of nine academic universities and six health institutions in the UT System. As a multicultural institution of access and excellence, UTSA aims to be a national research university providing access to educational excellence and preparing citizen leaders for the global environment. UTSA serves nearly 29,000 students in 64 bachelor's, 48 master's and 21 doctoral degree programs in the colleges of Architecture, Business, Education and Human Development, Engineering, Honors, Liberal and Fine Arts, Public Policy, Sciences and Graduate School. Founded in 1969, UTSA is an intellectual and creative resource center and a socioeconomic development catalyst for Texas and beyond.