News Feature | July 14, 2014

USC Research Teams To Test 3,000 Drug Leads

By Estel Grace Masangkay


Three research teams from the USC Stem Cell and USC Norris Cancer Center have won a prestigious prize to test 3,000 drug candidates and/or chemicals to investigate their potential in cancer and bone fractures.

Two teams will focus on researching potential drugs for cancer, while the third will determine ways to speed up the healing process of large bone fractures. The bone repair project will be headed by Gage Crump and Francesca Mariani, two principal investigators at USC’s stem cell research center. The pair will investigate different chemicals to determine which ones influence cartilage progenitors to form into ossifying chondrocytes. These are a special type of cell that encourages bone growth and therefore, could be the answer for patients suffering from large fractures.

The first of two cancer projects will be headed by Shou-Jiang Gao, professor of molecular microbiology and immunology at the USC Norris cancer center. Professor Gao’s team will focus on testing new treatments which spare healthy cells while targeting a group of cancers and tumors caused by Karposi’s sarcoma-associated herpes virus. The last cancer project will be headed by Amy Lee, professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at the USC cancer center. Professor Lee’s team will seek new drugs that suppress GRP78, a cancer-promoting protein implicated in the growth and survival of several cancers, including pancreatic adenocarcinoma.

All teams will have complimentary access to the facility’s extensive chemical libraries, as well as equipment and assistance from in-house technicians. The free screening will take place at the Choi Family Therapeutic Screening Facility, part of the Eli and Edythe Broad Center for Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research at USC. The bone repair project will be sponsored by USC stem cell research center director Andrew McMahon while the two cancer projects will be sponsored by USC Norris cancer center director Stephen Gruber. USC Stem Cell celebrated the opening and launch of the Choi screening facility last May.