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Creighton faculty earn NIH research grants

Chen, Destache and Shibata have earned NIH research grants.Three Creighton University faculty members received research grants from the National Institutes of Health earlier this month to continue significant scientific, pharmacological and medical research. Xian-Ming Chen, M.D., Chris Destache, PharmD, and Annemarie Shibata, Ph.D., all received new awards from NIH to help advance major studies the researchers have been pursuing.

All three faculty members also recently received internal grants allowing them to develop their research projects and render their NIH applications more competitive. Shibata is the recipient of Creighton’s Dr. George F. Haddix President’s Faculty Research Grant and both Chen and Destache received funds from LB 692 New Initiative grants. These peer-reviewed grant systems at Creighton are being singled out as important initial steps toward larger national funding.

“The announcement of the National Institutes of Health grants to these deserving faculty members is a point of great pride for Creighton University,” said Dr. J. Chris Bradberry, PharmD, interim president of the University. “It’s a moment made even sweeter by the realization that the University itself, through gracious donors and legislation, was able to monetarily start Drs. Chen, Destache and Shibata down the path toward achieving major new discoveries in their fields, discoveries which are all aimed at new innovations in treating disease. We wish them nothing but the best as they strive to help the greater good.”

Chen, a professor of medical microbiology and immunology at the Creighton School of Medicine, has received a grant to study the interactions between a parasite and host intestinal epithelial cells. The five-year, $2 million NIH R01 grant will help Chen and his laboratory address the question of how a protozoan parasite, Cryptosporidium, induces epigenetic gene inhibition in infected intestinal epithelial cells, contributing to the pathogenesis of intestinal cryptosporidiosis. Cryptosporidium is a pathogen infecting the gastrointestinal epithelium in humans. This parasite can have vast implications when it comes to the infections of immunocompromised humans, including AIDS, cancer, and transplant patients, often leading to life-threatening illness. Hopes are the results of Chen’s study will reveal valuable information about parasite-host interactions and lead to the development of new therapeutic strategies for treatment for the infection.

Destache, a professor of pharmacy practice and vice chair of research at Creighton’s School of Pharmacy and Health Professions, received a three-year NIH R01 award totaling $1,547,452 to focus on the development of drug delivery systems in the treatment of HIV. The grant provides support for health-related research and development based on the mission of the NIH, which allows an investigator to define the scientific focus or objective of the research based on a particular area of interest and competence. Destache is a 1984 Creighton pharmacy graduate.

Shibata, an associate professor of cellular neuroscience in the College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Biology, earned her undergraduate degree at Creighton in 1992. Her NIH R15 award is for $436,500 over two years and comes from the NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Shibata and her lab will work to develop a combination nano-microbicide in a thermosensitive gel delivery system for cost-effective, highly efficacious prophylactic treatment against HIV-1. This project involves the education of undergraduate research students and will provide funding for four students per year (eight total). Shibata will collaborate on the project with Destache and Abhijit Date, Ph.D., formerly of Creighton’s School of Pharmacy and Health Professions, now a research fellow at Johns Hopkins University.

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