A research center dedicated to developing the next generation of drugs to treat everything from diabetes to cancer will be created at the University of South Carolina thanks to an $11.3 million federal grant.
The five-year grant is one of the largest competitive awards in the university’s history and will establish the Center for Targeted Therapeutics (CTT) at the USC College of Pharmacy (SCCP). Interim executive dean of College of Pharmacy Randall Rowen says the grant award is a big step.
“I think both the university and the college is going to have a very significant impact on the citizens of South Carolina,” Rowen said. “So, even though this is federally funded, it is something that is clearly going to benefit our citizens, our students and so forth in the training of future investigators. And they will go all over the country, if not the world.”
The center will work toward creating drugs that target diseases on a molecular level without the adverse side effects common of traditional pharmaceuticals. USC pharmacy professor Igor Roninson, who school leaders say played a major role in securing the grant, will lead the new center.
“The big pharmaceutical companies are not doing the type of research we can do in a university setting,” Roninson said in a statement. “This grant is recognition that the most promising pharmaceuticals—ones that provide more effective approaches to hard-to-treat diseases—are now being discovered in academic labs through multidisciplinary collaborations, before they are picked up by big pharma.”
Rowen agreed. “The research side is very expensive, time consuming, and let’s face it, they are businesses,” he said. “So when they look about investing their resources, sometimes it’s better to purchase molecules that may be developed through academic institutions or other private facilities.”
The new center will also include researchers at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston.
Rowen says the drug development research will likely initially target a number of major diseases that have impacted the human population.
“I think there is a tendency for people to move toward the diseases that of more public interest. So heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease; we find a lot of research in those areas. Consequently there is more funding in those areas because of their impact on the public.”
Rowen says he feels the securing of the grant is just the first step to something truly big, because that grant can be extended over time.
“You could go 15 years with this grant which would allow you to build a tremendous amount of experience understanding young investigators, and really could have a huge impact on the state.”