Daniel Scott, assistant professor of chemistry, recently received funding from the Kentucky Biomedical Research Infrastructure Network (KBRIN) for his research project titled “Developing Novel Anti-Cancer Mithramycin Formulations and Nanoparticle Delivery System Design.”
KBRIN is funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) as part of a program to help states that are less funded by the NIH. According to Scott, Kentucky falls in this group of states, and part of the mission of KBRIN is to develop a network of support for biomedical researchers in Kentucky to be successful with their research projects and secure more funding from the NIH to support them.
The funding award is $40,000 for the first year and is renewable for a second year while he pursues more funding from the NIH.
“My specific proposal is focused on improving cancer therapy,” Scott said. “We are working on the development of new anti-cancer drugs that will be more effective at treating cancer. We are looking for drugs that interact preferentially with cancer cells over normal cells. We use lung cancer cells to test our drugs, but the therapies would be relevant with other types of cancers as well.
“In addition to making better drugs, we are also working on nanoparticle delivery systems to carry our drugs through the body to the cancer cells,” he continued. “The idea is that, by selectively delivering our new drugs to the cancer cells with the delivery system, we will avoid the accumulation of the drugs in normal cells, which leads to the many side effects traditionally seen with chemotherapy, such as loss of hair and an impaired immune system.”
To date, Scott said four new drugs have been made that have shown improved anti-cancer abilities.
“We are currently finalizing these results and plan to use the data to make our next round of drugs with hopefully even better anti-cancer properties,” he added. “We are also working on the proof-of-concept for the delivery of the drugs with our nanoparticle delivery system. While a long way off, the ultimate long-term goal is to have a formulation that will be used in the clinic to treat patients with cancer.”
Scott also said a new project has been initiated to create diagnostic devices for cancer and other diseases.
“We are working on point-of-care systems that will be able to be used in areas without extensive laboratory resources, such as underdeveloped countries, to give a quick and accurate diagnosis,” he explained. “While we are not working on a test for COVID-19, you can imagine with the current pandemic how valuable it would be to be able to have the results of a test quickly and without the need to send the samples off to a specialized lab and wait days to get the results.”
Scott said this grant will give him the opportunity to continue to grow the undergraduate research program at Centre.
“One of my favorite parts of working at Centre is the interactions we get to have with students, both in-and-out of the classrooms,” he added. “I view my research program as not only a way to make new scientific discoveries but also as an extension of my teaching and another way I hope to prepare students for life after Centre, whether that is professional school, graduate school or directly to a job.
“Working on a research project is a great way to apply all the information we get to learn in the classroom to new, exciting problems,” he continued. “Research can be tedious and frustrating at times, but the critical thinking required to overcome challenges and make new discoveries will hopefully be valuable no matter which path students take after Centre.”
According to Scott, this grant will help provide the supplies and materials needed to complete the work, as well as new instrumentation and funding for students to assist with research in the summer. There is also money available for his students and him to present their work at national scientific conferences.
“I am excited for this opportunity to continue our research with students,” he said.
Scott would like to acknowledge and thank Steve Asmus, H.W. Stodghill, Jr. and Adele H. Stodghill Professor of Biology and Biochemistry and Molecular Biology holding the Marlene and David Grissom Professorship in Science and mathematics, and Katherine Andrews, sponsored research specialists for Academic Affairs, for their assistance with the proposal. He would also like to thank the rest of the Centre community for the support he’s received.
“They spent a ton of time editing and offering advice, and I definitely couldn’t not have done it without them. It was really a team effort,” Scott concluded.
by Kerry Steinhofer
April 21, 2020