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August 27, 2012

ULM and LSU AgCenter announce research initiatives

Scientists at the University of Louisiana at Monroe and LSU AgCenter are working together to research breast cancer, prostate cancer, ovarian cancer, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, and water quality.

The two institutions signed a memorandum of understanding in May, establishing an agreement to collaborate on a series of five research projects.

Research teams were then invited to submit proposals to be reviewed by both institutions; proposals required a faculty member from each institution.

The research proposals are now finalized, and both ULM President Nick J. Bruno and LSU AgCenter Vice Chancellor John Russin are enthusiastic about the results of these partnerships.

Vice Chancellor Russin commended both universities for their “unique strengths.”

“This partnership will facilitate critical synergies among teams of scientists from both campuses, allowing the results of their efforts to be greater than they could achieve individually,” Russin said. “We look forward to joint technology developments that will elevate the research profiles of both campuses.”

President Bruno agreed, saying, “ULM’s collaboration with LSU AgCenter means innovative research that benefits our region, and just as importantly, the partnership means unique experiences for our students. I applaud the efforts of ULM's College of Pharmacy for their innovative research and dedication.”

Combining the research efforts of ULM and LSU AgCenter will prove beneficial to Louisiana citizens, said Phil Elzer, assistant vice chancellor for research in the LSU AgCenter.

“This is an exciting time for both systems because we have scientists working together to use novel technologies to better the health and welfare of the citizens of Louisiana,” said Elzer.

Each approved project was identified as having a “high probability for developing intellectual property leading to the creation of jobs through the stimulation of existing companies and/or the formation of new businesses,” said ULM Vice President of Academic Affairs Eric Pani.

Elzer expressed hope the initial venture will allow both campuses to become more competitive in acquiring federal funds and being able to tap into other revenue streams, including private industry.

“The success of this unique endeavor should demonstrate to all of our stakeholders that LSU AgCenter and ULM are pivotal to the scientific progress in the traditional and transitional research arenas,” Elzer said.

The approved proposals include:

Kevin Baer, ULM Department of Toxicology, and Richard Keim, LSU AgCenter School of Renewable Natural Resources: “Are there unintended toxic effects on resident biota in wetlands used for water quality management?” Agricultural runoff is a major source of nutrients, such as nitrites in surface and ground waters. Excess nutrients in surface waters can result in poor water quality and the killing of fish. The experiments in this proposal seek to evaluate the possible toxic effects of nutrient-rich water on aquatic organisms.

Paul Sylvester, ULM Department of Basic Pharmaceutical Sciences, and John Finley, LSU AgCenter Department of Food Science: “Optimization of tocotrienol extraction and purification from rice bran oil for use in prevention and treatment of breast cancer.” Tocotrienol, a rare form of vitamin E, displays potent anti-cancer activity. A rich source of vitamin E oil is found in rice bran oil, and Louisiana is the third-largest rice producer in the United States. Unfortunately, rice bran is typically discarded as a waste product. Technology is being developed to stabilize rice bran and provide the raw material for premium quality rice bran oil. The establishment of this new industry in Louisiana would also provide a source of skilled jobs in the economically-deprived northeast region of the state. These studies will promote the economic growth of developing rice bran oil and tocotrienol manufacturing in northeast Louisiana.

Khalid El Sayed, Girish Shah and Amal Kaddoumi, ULM Department of Basic Pharmaceutical Sciences; and Zhijun Liu, LSU AgCenter Department of Renewable Natural Resources: “Optimization of novel anti-metastatic agents with cell-cell adhesion and tight-junction promoting effects for the control of recurring prostate cancer.” Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of death in men. Decreasing prostate cancer metastasis (dissemination to distant organs) can reduce morbidity and mortality. Researchers will discover, investigate, and patent a new entity named PMH, based on a natural compound from a marine sponge.

Yong Yu Liu, ULM Department of Basic Pharmaceutical Sciences, and Zhijun Liu, LSU AgCenter Department of Renewable Natural Resources: “Solubilized apoptotic ceramide as a novel therapeutic agent targeting p53 mutant ovarian cancer cells.” In this collaborative project, one laboratory will focus on the solubility enhancement and another concentrate on the efficacy/mechanisms. The two labs will set up a foundation to develop new anti cancer drugs.

Amal Kaddoumi, ULM Department of Basic Pharmaceutical Sciences, and Cristina Sabliov, LSU AgCenter Biological and Agricultural Engineering: “Cellular uptake and trafficking of poly(lactic-co-glycolic acid) nanoparticles: Implications for antioxidant delivery.” The focus of this project is to develop and characterize nanoparticles as a delivery system for natural antioxidants, which have potential for disease prevention and protect the body from damaging effect of free radicals involved in cancer, cardiovascular diseases, Alzheimer’s disease, and diabetes.

Additional collaborators on this project are Sami Nazzal and Paul Sylvester from ULM and Zhimin Xu from LSU AgCenter.

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