Pharmacy professor, biology professor awarded research grants

Two Presbyterian College faculty members have been awarded grants for their research at the PC School of Pharmacy and on the undergraduate campus.

Dr. Wei Lei, assistant professor of pharmaceutical and administrative sciences, and Dr. Austin Shull ’11, assistant professor of biology, were announced among the Developmental Research Project (DRP) Program grant 2020-21 recipients this fall.

Pharmacy Research

“It is a great honor to receive this award,” said Lei, adding the award will enhance his work while also providing opportunities for students interested in research.

The goal of his proposed project is to investigate the modulatory activities of heat shock protein 90 (Hsp90) on morphine tolerance.

“As we have known, opioid drugs like morphine and oxycodone are commonly used for the management of chronic pain,” Lei said. “However, the side effects of opioids, such as tolerance, respiratory depression, dependence, addiction and constipation, not only limit their use for chronic pain but also increase the risk of opioid abuse. New methods to decrease opioid side effects are sorely needed.”

Heat shock protein 90 (Hsp90), Lei explains, is a group of proteins highly involved in the responses to stress, such as heat or cold, as well as numerous diseases.

With the project, researchers expect to determine the roles of different subgroups of Hsp90 and their assistants called co-chaperones on morphine tolerance and to reveal the role of Hsp90 on intracellular signaling pathways associated with morphine tolerance.

“These findings will be important for devising novel strategies for drug discovery, to improve the morphine performance, meaning less side effects and maintained or even enhanced pain management activity,” he said.

Research Excellence

Shull’s breast cancer research was also awarded in 2019. This award continues the work of the first grant from the previous academic year.  SC INBRE is a statewide multi-million dollar, five-year renewable grant program funded by The National Institutes of Health National Institute of General Medical Sciences.

The awards are part of the South Carolina IDeA Networks of Biomedical Research Excellence (SC INBRE), Developmental Research Project (DRP) Program.

Each project awards up to $50,000 for one year, renewable for a second year upon favorable review of the progress report by SC INBRE’s External Advisory Committee, according to a SC INBRE press release.

The DRP program was designed to foster faculty research programs at SC INBRE network institutions, according to the statement. The awards support independent research programs and research training to students and/or postdoctoral fellows in the biomedical sciences.

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