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Ferris State University College of Pharmacy students investigating novel anticancer agents through National Institutes of Health grant

Ferris State University College of Pharmacy faculty and students are investigating novel anticancer agents for lung cancer, backed by a three-year, $377,805 National Institutes of Health grant.

Sonali Kurup, an associate professor of Medicinal Chemistry, is collaborating with Felix Amissah, an associate professor of Pharmacology, through a Research Enhancement Award Program grant.

The research efforts continue developing dual-targeted inhibitors of epidermal growth factor receptor and aurora kinase enzymes to create a product that successfully inhibits tumor growth, Kurup said.

"We have been impressed by the contributions made by PharmD and undergraduate students on this grant-funded project,” she said.

Students in the Kurup lab work on inhibitor development by optimizing enzyme-inhibitor interactions utilizing structure-based drug design, multi-step organic reactions for compound synthesis, compound purification and compound characterization using varied analytic techniques.

The students in Amissah’s lab are working on evaluating the anticancer effects of the dual EGFR and aurora kinase inhibitors in multi-resistant non-small cell lung cancer cells.

The collaborative research work has been presented as posters at the West Michigan Research Undergraduate Symposium at Van Andel Research Institute and HatchEd symposium at Ferris State.

The most recent presentations were from two PharmD students, Brianne Rogers and Dayna Gesinski, who presented the research in April 2023 at the National Meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research in Orlando, Fla.

“The American Association for Cancer Research posters focused on the anticancer effects of dual EGFR/AURK inhibitors,” Kurup said. “This was a milestone for our labs. Brianne and Dayna represented the university so well. They traveled to Orlando for the conference, presented two posters and answered questions from a highly technical global audience of the scientific community from academia and pharmaceutical industries such as Pfizer, Novartis, and Lilly, among others from the United States, Germany, United Kingdom, and other countries.”

Nicholas Rohde, a recent College of Pharmacy graduate, received an Excellence in Research Award at the PharmD graduation ceremony in Spring 2023 for his project contributions.

“Nicholas was engaged on this project for the first two years of the REAP grant in the P2 and P3 years of the professional program,” Kurup said. “He worked on compound synthesis in the Hagerman Pharmacy Building and compound characterization using the mass spectrometer at the Shimadzu Research Core Lab.”

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