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USciences Faculty, Students Awarded Nearly $1 Million in Research Grants and Contracts

By Jenna Pizzi

Students and faculty have been awarded $968,835 in grants and contracts since September 2016, including from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Zhiwei Liu, PhD
Zhiwei Liu, PhD
Vojislava Pophristic, PhD
Vojislava Pophristic, PhD

Assistant Professor of Chemistry Zhiwei Liu, PhD, and Professor of Chemistry Vojislava Pophristic, PhD, received a $427,500 NIH grant for a research on computational development of systems for diagnostic and therapeutic recognition of sugars, especially targeting cancer and diabetes.

This grant is a result of a multi-year development, originally funded by the National Science Foundation, on coming up with computational tools for designing biomimetic molecular entities for a variety of health and public health related applications. The work has yielded a number of high profile, invited journal articles, which were specially featured on cover pages of high-impact factor chemistry journals, and is in the field of this year’s Nobel Prize for Chemistry.

Dr. Pophristic said the research her team will be conducting has never been tackled before and could reveal biomarkers for pathogens and a range of cancers.

“Despite the great need, the development of synthetic carbohydrate receptors has been slower than desired,” said Dr. Pophristic. “We propose to develop a computer aided design of carbohydrate receptors which will result in a transformative increase in efficiency and speed of producing effective carbohydrate receptors.”

The NIH also awarded $45,076 to Amanpreet Kaur Phd’17, a student in the University’s Cancer Biology program, which will help to fund her ongoing research into melanoma.

The award is one of the inaugural grants from the National Cancer Institute’s F99 program, which aims to fund individuals transitioning from graduate school to post-doctoral positions to keep talented individuals in the field.

Kaur said it was the invaluable student resources at USciences which helped her to win this award from NIH.

“The University has helped me to develop my biomedical writing skills,” said Kaur. “This proved to be very helpful while preparing my grant proposal and I believe it will continue to help me in other aspects throughout my career.”

Kaur, who started at USciences after learning about the cancer biology program while working at the Wistar Institute, is studying how melanoma changes the structure of our skin as we age and how that may influence some aggressive characteristics of the deadly cancer.

“This cancer biology program has offered the best training for academic jobs as well as industry jobs,” said Kaur. “It has offered me a chance to explore my interests in teaching while also continuing research.”

Kaur said she hopes to eventually lead her own research group in an academic setting and hopes to study cures for cancer and other diseases.

Bela Peethambaran, PhD

, PhD

Zachary Klase, PhD

Zachary Klase, PhD

Christopher Janetopoulos, PhD

, PhD

Other awards include:

  • $13,009 grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Health to Bela Peethambaran, PhD, for continued research into plant-derived anti-cancer compounds.
  • $98,000 from The W.W. Smith Charitable Trust, which invests in research within the Delaware Valley, to Zachary Klase, PhD, and Christopher Janetopoulos, PhD, to study real-time, high-resolution imaging of chromatin at the HIV-1 Promoter.
  • $101,000 from The W.W. Smith Charitable Trust to Zhihong Wang, PhD, for a project entitled “Unraveling Molecular Mechanism and BRAF Activation to Improve Therapy in Melanoma.”
  • $100,000 from The W.W. Smith Charitable Trust to Margaret Pearce, PhD, to investigate the role of protein aggregation in cardiomyopathy associated with Huntington’s disease.
  • Philadelphia College of Pharmacy also entered into a $155,000 service contract with Scynexis Inc. to aid in product development.
  • $29,250 from the Pennsylvania Department of Education and Gov. Tom Wolf for the It’s On Us program, which works to prevent, address, and respond effectively to sexual violence.
Zhihong Wang, PhD

Zhihong Wang, PhD

Margaret Pearce, PhD

Margaret Pearce, PhD

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