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Nicole Suchy
Higuchi Biosciences Center
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KU research award recipients working toward deeper understanding of Alzheimer's disease, fighting viral infections

Fri, 06/03/2022

LAWRENCE — Three projects — one investigating synaptic degeneration caused by Alzheimer’s disease and two addressing the prevention and treatment of two viruses — were selected to receive the 2022 J.R. and Inez Jay Fund research award at the University of Kansas. Researchers from the Department of Molecular Biosciences will conduct the projects.

Brian AckleyBrian Ackley, associate professor of molecular biosciences, received an award for a proposal titled “Ultrastructural Analysis of Synaptic Degeneration in Rapidly Developing AD Models.” The project aims to study the formation of protein aggregates in neurons that can lead to a progressive loss of synapses during aging. By doing so, the study may lead to a better understanding of the origin and causes of early-stage Alzheimer’s disease and provide ways to treat or prevent the disease and other neurodegenerative disorders. Ackley will collaborate on the project with Michael Wolfe, Mathias P. Mertes Professor of Medicinal Chemistry. He will also consul with David Hall, professor of neuroscience at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and Matthew Buechner, program director of the Cellular Dynamics & Function Cluster Biology Directorate at the National Science Foundation.

David DavidoDavid Davido, professor of molecular biosciences, submitted another of the selected projects: “Identifying Regions in HSV-1 That Contribute to Neuroinvasiveness.” In collaboration with Stuart Macdonald, professor and associate chair of molecular biosciences, Davido will investigate the herpes simplex virus (HSV) strains, of which virulence varies from one strain to the other. The objective of the project is to identify physical sites within the genome that play a role in the capability of HSV to infect the nervous system. The study may lead to a better understanding of the molecular mechanisms that drive the development of HSV and facilitate the development of new treatments that prevent or cure herpetic infections and diseases.

Anthony FehrAnthony Fehr, assistant professor of molecular biosciences, received an award to conduct a project titled “Discovery and Optimization of SARS-CoV-2 Mac1 Inhibitors.” He will collaborate with four other researchers on the project:

  • Dana Ferraris, chair and associate professor of chemistry at McDaniel College in Westminster, Maryland.
  • Anu Roy, director of KU’s High Throughput Screening Laboratory and the CoBRE Infectious Disease Assay Development Core Laboratory.
  • Michael Hageman, Valentino J. Stella Distinguished Professor of Pharmaceutical Chemistry and director of KU’s Biopharmaceutical Innovation & Optimization Center.
  • David K. Johnson, director of KU’s Computational Chemical Biology Core Laboratory.

The project aims to discover and optimize inhibitors that impede coronavirus replication. The research may have a positive impact on global efforts to identify compounds and therapies to fight coronaviruses.

The J.R. and Inez Jay Research Fund was established in 1977 through an estate gift to KU Endowment from Inez Jay. Her late husband, John Jay, was a pharmacist in Wichita.

The purpose of the Jay Fund is to stimulate collaborative, interdisciplinary, biomedical research activities in pursuit of large external grants, such as multi-investigator National Institutes of Health project grants, program projects, and center grants awarded under the tutelage of the Higuchi Biosciences Center. All biomedical scientists holding principal investigator status at KU are eligible to apply for the awards. Recipients are selected by members of the Higuchi Biosciences Center internal advisory committee.

KU Endowment is the independent, nonprofit organization serving as the official fundraising and fund-management organization for KU. Founded in 1891, KU Endowment was the first foundation of its kind at a U.S. public university.



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