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P&S Dean’s Pilot Award Winners to Study Bacterial Pneumonia

Pilot Award winners, from left: Stephanie Hsiao, Liang Tong, Lisa Saiman, Adam Ratner, Donald Landry and Alice Prince (seated)
Pilot Award winners, from left: Stephanie Hsiao, Liang Tong, Lisa Saiman, Adam Ratner, Donald Landry and Alice Prince (seated)
A group of researchers representing five disciplines and two campuses will receive the first P&S Dean’s Pilot Project Award. This award, which provides $150,000 per year for two years, will fund the project, “Development of Neuraminidase Inhibitors to Prevent Bacterial Infection.” The principal investigator is Alice Prince, M.D., professor of pediatrics; co-PIs are Adam Ratner, M.D., M.P.H., assistant professor of pediatrics; Donald Landry, M.D., Ph.D., professor of medicine; Liang Tong, Ph.D., assistant professor, Department of Biology (Morningside); and Lisa Saiman, M.D., M.P.H., professor of clinical pediatrics.
    “We are thrilled to receive this award,” Dr. Prince says. “It will enable us to determine if our strategy – identifying compounds that block bacterial neuraminidases – will be useful in preventing the most common types of bacterial pneumonia.”
   Preliminary studies by Dr. Prince and her team were done with an important pathogen, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, which infects hospitalized patients, immunocompromised patients and especially those with cystic fibrosis. The Dean’s Pilot Project will expand these studies to establish the efficacy of this approach for Streptococcus pneumonia, the most common cause of community acquired bacterial pneumonia and a major pathogen in both children and adults.
   “Along with my colleague Adam Ratner, who studies the pneumococcus, we hope to identify drugs that will be effective in preventing bacterial pneumonia, just as the viral neuraminidase inhibitors prevent influenza,” Dr. Prince says. Dr. Tong will assist in the crystallization of the bacterial enzymes to determine their structures and identify the active site of the enzymes; Stephanie Hsiao, a graduate student in Dr. Tong’s lab, will assist in crystallizing and analyzing the binding properties of the bacterial enzymes; and Dr. Landry will help screen libraries of compounds to identify potential inhibitors. Once drugs that have potential clinical use are identified, Dr. Saiman will help design and coordinate clinical trials.
   This award to CUMC researchers was made possible by Lynn Shostack, through the David A. Gardner New Initiatives Fund, named in memory of her husband. Ms. Shostack also has made a multi-million dollar gift to Columbia to establish the David A. Gardner Brain PET Imaging Center and endowed the David A. Gardner Clinical Professorship in the Department of Medicine.
   “We are optimistic that the grant to Dr. Prince and her team will help generate results that engender not only federal funding to expand the investigation but also improved patient outcomes and continued success in translational research,” Dr. Goldman says.