Concordia University Wisconsin Faculty On Cutting Edge Of Research

    Concordia University Wisconsin faculty are benefitting this academic year from internal research grants that have positioned the 133-year-old University on the cutting edge of research among higher education institutions in southeastern Wisconsin.

    Seven internal grants totaling $17,000.00 were awarded last fall to four professors in pharmacy, and one each in nursing, physical therapy and physiology. The grants, applied to a wide breadth of research fields, are an important investment in Concordia research programs and reinforce the administration’s commitment to faculty research. Funds were distributed to professors who can now develop their projects and use them as “seed money” to potentially apply for larger external grants.

    Those receiving grants and their research specialty were:

    • Dr. Aaron Miller, Physiology (The role of the endocannabinoid system in zebrafish stress and anxiety responses).
    • Dr. Robert Burlage, Pharmacy (A three-di­mensional image of the XyIR regulatory protein).
    • Dr. Daniel Sem, Pharmacy (Dendrimer nanotechnology-based nasal delivery of a novel drug to treat the negative symptoms of schizophrenia).
    • Dr. Uvidelio Castillo, Pharmacy (Antibi­otic activity studies of essential oils mixture and the synergistic effects when combined with known antibiotics against two common infections in burn patients).
    • Dr. Michael Pickart, Pharmacy (Evalua­tion of gene function contributing to spinal birth defects).
    • Dr. Mary Lou Kopp, Nursing (Active teaching strategies toward a sense of sa­lience: end-of-life communication).
    • Dr. Dale Gerke, Physical Therapy (Impact of manual therapy interventions on running economy in asymptomatic individuals with asymmetrical hip range of motion).

    “The University has assembled an in­credibly talented set of faculty and resourc­es, and I’m personally looking forward to collaborating with other researchers to build southeast Wisconsin as a pharmaceutical drug discovery and development hub,” noted Dr. Daniel Sem, who was awarded a $3,000 grant. Sem, Director of the Center for Struc­ture-Based Drug Design and Development, is also a co-investigator on two National Institutes of Health (NIH) funded research projects totaling nearly $1 million, which are attempting to find new treatments for vascu­lar diseases. Those projects are being led by Dr. Ramani Ramchandran, a Professor in the Children’s Research Institute at the Medical College of Wisconsin.

    Other members of the pharmacy faculty who are studying vascular anomalies that occur in nearly one per cent of the population and present at birth or early childhood are: Dr. Abhay Chauhan, Dr. Joseph McGraw, and

    Dr. Scott Van Ornum. The “team” is targeting a mutated protein identified in the Ramchan­dran lab, and which is involved in vascular development, dual-specificity phosphatase-5 (DUSP5). “We are pursuing nuclear magnetic resonance-based structural studies that will add dynamic information to our struc­tural data and turn our snapshots of protein structures into movies,” indicated Sem. “This will better explain how DUSP5 works at the molecular level,” continued Sem, while not­ing that DUSP5 has only recently come into the pharmacological spotlight as a potential therapeutic target.

    A second drug discovery research project, funded by a $300,000 NIH grant, involves de­signing molecules that inhibit certain proteins in Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Key research­ers on this project in addition to Dr. Sem are Dr. Terrence Neumann, along with CUW undergraduate students Kelsey Kalous, Chris Bohl and Elise Span, and Dr. Bill Schwan from UW-La Crosse. The team has nearly com­pleted the structures of two other thioredoxin proteins and hopes to publish those results later this year. TB kills over 1 million people annually and with current treatments far from ideal, new and more effective antibiotic treatments are desperately needed, according to Neumann.

    A third research project is focused on developing a drug lead mol­ecule for treating schizo­phrenia. In collaboration with Dr. Ghasemzadeh at Marquette University are Dr. Chauhan, Dr. McGraw and Dr. Sem. Developing a better way to deliver the drug so that it makes its way to the brain more efficiently is the research focus. Schizophre­nia presently afflicts over 1% of the population, and nega­tive side effects make current treatments ineffective.

    Concordia’s four-year-old School of Pharmacy (SOP) will reach a major milestone this May, graduating its first class of 67 students. The $12.5 million school was officially dedicated in September, 2011 after three years of extensive planning, fundraising and faculty recruitment, and it is the only Lutheran-sponsored pharmacy program in the nation. Graduates will help ease the shortage of pharma­cists in Wisconsin, especially in rural areas in the northern part of the state, according to Dr. Patrick T. Ferry, Concordia’s President since 1987.

    The School of Pharmacy will be introduc­ing a 48-credit, Master of Pharmaceutical/ Chemical Product Development (MPD) degree this fall. This two-year, traditional program will provide the additional education and hands-on training that science majors need to secure a job in the pharmaceutical or chemi­cal product development industries. “This is a good feeder program for these industries,” said Sem. As opposed to the customary writ­ten or oral thesis at the end, 12 students will get hands-on practicum experience with an area company. They’ll also learn the busi­ness, legal and regulatory requirements in the pharmaceutical and chemical manufacturing industries, including food, cosmetic and other specialty industries.

    CUW is currently working with several companies to design and offer this program, including Cambridge Major Laboratories in Germantown, WI, a world-class manufac­turer and supplier of active pharmaceutical ingredients and pharmaceutical interme­diates for pre-clinical, clinical and commercial supply. Courses will be taught on the Mequon campus, as well as in lab space at the brand new UWM Innovation Accelera­tor in Wauwatosa, part of Innovation Campus north of the Medical College of Wisconsin and Froedtert Hospital. Concordia is leasing a 1,376 square foot space, which includes a $100,000 Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) classroom laboratory, the only one of its kind in Wisconsin. Sem further noted the MPD is in line with an advanced manufacturing initia­tive by Governor Scott. Walker, teaching practi­cal, industry-relevant skills they will not find elsewhere and which are in high demand.

    Other faculty members in the School of Pharmacy involved in research locally include:

    Dr. Chris Cunningham – _Researching cannabinoids for pain. In collaboration with a leading researcher in this area at The Medical College of Wisconsin, Dr. Cece Hillard, the two had a paper published in late 2013.

    Dr. Joe McGraw – _In collaboration with Medical College of Wisconsin and UWM scientists, research is being conducted on the relationship of dietary pollut­ants on the increased incidence of low-birth weight babies in southeast Wisconsin.

    Dr. Frank Dailey – _Exploring new ways to increase levels of healthy, Omega-3 fatty acids in our diet, through a variety of fish we consume from Lake Michigan.

    For more information on the School of Pharmacy, one of six schools at Concordia University Wisconsin, we welcome you to visit our website at or call toll free at 1-888-628-9472.

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