Drug Development Pilot Awards

This award is intended to support new drug discovery and development research with the goal of augmenting the translation of scientific discoveries to therapeutic development. 

Specifically, the purpose is to assist in the transition from biology and target identification to clinical targets and to facilitate the transition of discovery through development and delivery to all phases of clinical trials and subsequent commercialization.

A maximum of $50,000 will be awarded for a period of 12 months.


Learn more about the CCTS Drug Development & Discovery Core.  »


2019 Awardees

  • Salvatore Cherra, PhD

    Assistant Professor, Department of Neuroscience, College of Medicine

    Developing Caenorhabditis elegans as a model for nicotine-use disorder

    The prevalence of substance use disorders has grown over recent years. To better understand the development of substance use disorders, we are using Caenorhabditis elegans to model nicotine dependence caused by tobacco smoking. We are performing in vivo imaging and behavioral analysis to exam how nicotine dependence alters neuronal function at the cellular and circuit levels. This simple model of nicotine dependence will provide a new tool to uncover therapeutic targets and to screen novel compounds for treating substance use disorders

    Salvatore Cherra

2018 Awardees

  • Sally Rose Ellingson, PhD

    Assistant Professor, Biomedical Informatics, College of Medicine

    Novel Computational Drug Repurposing to Target Autophagy for Cancer Treatments

    My research objective is to advance pharmaceutical research of cancer therapies by harnessing the power of high-performance computing and biomedical big data sources for insights otherwise not possible. The extraordinary cost for research and development to bring a new drug to market drives up consumers’ drug costs and prohibits access of life-saving pharmaceuticals to many in our population. High-performance computing is a safe, efficient, and cost-effective tool to further understand the nature of drugs and improve the discovery pipeline. The objective of this project is to development a machine learning model to make accurate drug-repurposing predictions. The repurposing of already approved drugs for new diseases further drives down treatment costs. This model will be trained using diverse proteins so that predictions can be made on novel drug targets in which experimental drug binding data is not available. The project will include a case study of the p62/SQSTM1/Sequestosome-1 protein. Inhibiting this protein is expected to aid in the treatment of many cancers, including prostate cancer, which is diagnosed in one out of every seven men in their lifetime. Although Sequestosome-1 is a promising drug target, there is no experimental data on the entire protein structure or known binding compounds in the public data repositories to be used in computational drug discovery research. This work will model and validate the structure of Sequestosome-1, make drug-repurposing predictions using a model for diverse proteins, and experimentally test the best predictions. This is preliminary work for clinical trials targeting the treatment of prostate cancer.

    Sally Rose Ellingson, PhD

2017 Awardees

  • Ying Liang, PhD

    Assistant Professor, Department of Toxicology and Cancer Biology, College of Medicine

    Latexin as a target for pharmaceutical intervention

    Ying Liang, PhD
  • Justin Fraser, MD

    Director, Cerebrovascular Surgery, College of Medicine

    Justin Fraser, MD

    Linda Van Eldik, PhD

    Director, Sanders-Brown Center on Aging, College of Medicine

    Dysregulated CNS Inflammation after Acute Brain Injury

    Linda Van Eldik, PhD

2013 Awardees

  • Dave Feola, PhD

    Associate Professor, Department of Pharmacy Practice & Science, College of Pharmacy

    Novel Immunomodulatory Macrolides - Discovery and Function

    While primarily functioning to orchestrate remodeling and repair mechanisms, alternatively activated macrophages (AAM) are important in controlling lung homeostasis, inflammation, and subsequent damage.  Our current work investigates the function of AAM in regulating the inflammatory response to extracellular Gram-negative bacterial pneumonia.  We have published that azithromycin can induce macrophage characteristics that are consistent with an AAM-Iike phenotype.  With this pilot award we will investigate whether macrolide lead compounds can be identified that induce alternative macrophage polarization in vitro and in vivo, that have increased potency compared to AZM and are devoid of antimicrobial activity.

    Dave Feola, PhD
  • Kimberly Nixon, PhD

    Associate Professor, Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, College of Pharmacy

    Drug discovery for cessation of comorbid alcohol+nicotine abuse

  • Jon Thorson, PhD

    Professor, Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, College of Pharmacy

    Integrated approach to natural product scaffold metamorphosis

    Jon Thorson, PhD