The University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Pharmacy recently received two grants totaling $5.11 million in new research funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to advance the treatment of HIV infection.
Courtney Fletcher, Pharm.D., professor and dean of the College of Pharmacy, received a $3.73 million, five-year research grant to investigate how drugs used to treat HIV infection penetrate into tissues where the virus resides, and to identify drugs and combinations that can more completely inhibit viral replication in these reservoirs.
Complete suppression of viral replication in reservoir tissues would be necessary to achieve, if possible, a cure of HIV infection.
"This is a problem that we are extremely well positioned here at Nebraska to address," Dr. Fletcher said. "We think this problem of ongoing viral replication in lymphoid tissues may be solved by enhanced drug delivery, and that's something that we here at UNMC are really good at."
Kimberly Scarsi, Ph.D., associate professor of pharmacy practice, received a $1.38 million, five-year research grant to investigate strategies to manage detrimental drug interactions between implantable contraceptive hormones and antiretroviral therapy in HIV-infected women.
The overall goal is to maintain contraceptive effectiveness when combined with HIV therapy, thereby improving the management of reproductive health for HIV-infected women worldwide.
Dr. Scarsi said she works to improve the lives of women and families around the world.
"I believe that part of HIV becoming a long-term chronic illness is allowing families affected by HIV to have the opportunity to have children and to raise children," she said.
With $8.9 million in NIH grant funding for fiscal year 2015, the UNMC College of Pharmacy ranks in the top 10 percent of the nation’s 135 schools and colleges of pharmacy in terms of NIH research funding. The college jumped from No. 18 to No. 12 in the latest rankings compiled by the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy.
The UNMC College of Pharmacy currently ranks third in the U.S. in NIH funding when adjusted for dollars awarded per faculty member. The ranking is based on the college’s 35 full-time faculty members bringing in an average more than $251,000 in funding. This marks the eighth consecutive year the UNMC College of Pharmacy has cracked the top 10 in this metric.
Dr. Fletcher was effusive in his praise for his faculty.
"This is their accomplishment, and one they should take special pride in," Dr. Fletcher said. "Their ability to sustain a high standard of excellence and productivity in research and an equally high standard in education is a reflection of their commitment to our shared vision and the effort, creativity and passion each brings to his or her job."
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