Marquette professor gets $1.8 million grant for work that can create safer drugs

The Marquette University campus.

Another Marquette University professor is getting a grant to help fund their research. Joseph Clark, associate professor of chemistry, has been named as the recipient of a $1.8 million Maximizing Investigators’ Research Award (MIRA) from the National Institutes of Health. MIRA grants provide support for ongoing research in laboratories that falls within the mission of the National Institute of General Medical Sciences.

Clark is currently researching ways to modernize the synthesis of selectively deuterated small molecules. Deuterium is a naturally occurring isotope of hydrogen that has an additional neutron, making it twice as heavy. When deuterium is precisely installed into a drug molecule, the metabolic profile of the drug can be changed and can lead to safer drug candidates with improved metabolic properties without sacrificing drug potency.

Joseph Clark

“Despite the tremendous promise that novel deuterated small molecules have in the development of new medicines, methods to incorporate deuterium into molecular scaffolds are significantly underdeveloped,” Clark said. “We are launching a holistic research program to not only develop highly selective reactions for deuterium incorporation but pioneer the expansion of analytical techniques required to support the development and use of these reactions among the broader scientific community.”

The MIRA grant is spread out over five years and is worth $1,848,854. Clark and his team have started to develop analytical techniques that provide the foundation for accurate characterization and quantification of deuterated small molecules.

“The NIH has recognized the importance of this project and its potential for an important contribution to the safety of new medicines,” said Dr. Heidi Bostic, dean of the Klingler College of Arts and Sciences. “This research will drastically expand the development of new therapeutics to address many of the safety and tolerability problems plaguing modern medicine.”

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Ashley covers startups, technology and manufacturing for BizTimes. She was previously the managing editor of the News Graphic and Washington County Daily News. In past reporting roles, covering education at The Waukesha Freeman, she received several WNA awards. She is a UWM graduate. In her free time, Ashley enjoys watching independent films, tackling a new recipe in the kitchen and reading a good book.

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