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National science leader and Toledo native to deliver UT commencement address Dec. 15

The head of the nation’s oldest and one of its most prestigious laboratories will return home, as Toledo native Michael Witherell is set to deliver the address during The University of Toledo’s undergraduate commencement ceremony Saturday, Dec. 15.

Witherell, director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) in Berkeley, Calif., will address 1,474 candidates for degrees, including 1,437 bachelor’s and 37 associate’s candidates. The event will take place at 11:30 a.m. in Savage Arena on Main Campus.

Witherell

UT’s graduate commencement ceremony is scheduled at 8 a.m. in Savage Arena and will commemorate 641 candidates for doctoral, education specialist and master’s degrees, as well as graduate certificates. Md Kamal Hossain, emerging cancer researcher and candidate for a doctoral degree at the University, will be the speaker.

Both ceremonies are open to the public and can be viewed live on the UT Views website.

Witherell, a distinguished physicist, educator and science leader, developed the foundation for his future at Toledo’s St. Francis de Sales High School. Salutatorian at age 15, he earned a bachelor of science degree from the University of Michigan and a doctorate in experimental physics from the University of Wisconsin in Madison. After a distinguished career as a university professor performing research in particle physics, he devoted himself to leading large research institutions.

In 2016, Witherell was named director of Berkeley Lab, the oldest of the 17 labs in the
U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) national laboratories systems. Berkeley Lab is a global leader in fundamental and applied scientific research in physical, biological, energy, computing and environmental sciences. The lab’s employees have earned 13 Nobel Prizes and played a role in the discovery of 16 elements on the periodic table, among its honors. The lab is managed for the DOE by the University of California.

“Our mission at Berkeley Lab is solving the nation’s most challenging problems through great scientific and technological discoveries. I believe that the national assets in addressing these problems include public universities and the students whom they are educating,” Witherell said.

Before joining Berkeley Lab, Witherell spent six years as director of the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Illinois. He was vice chancellor for research at the University of California in Santa Barbara, where he also held a presidential chair in the Physics Department.

His primary research interest is in studying the nature of dark matter. He was a contributor to the LUX experiment, which in 2016 published the most sensitive search for interactions of dark matter particles with normal matter. He is now part of an international research team that is building a successor to LUX, known as LZ, which will be three orders of magnitude more sensitive. Data collection is expected to start in 2020.

Witherell is a Fellow of the American Physical Society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He chairs the Board of Physics and Astronomy of the National Academies and serves on the National Academies’ Committee on Science, Engineering and Public Policy.

“As a nationally recognized, public research university, The University of Toledo is pleased to have Dr. Witherell as our fall commencement speaker. Research not only helps us to discover new knowledge that advances all areas of study, but also instills critical thinking skills that our students can use to approach problems systematically and come up with solutions that improve everyday life,” UT President Sharon L. Gaber said. “We look forward to Dr. Witherell sharing his insights with our graduates, especially since he grew up in Toledo and has since made tremendous contributions through research.”

Witherell’s personal success can be traced back to the Glass City, as well. He and his wife, Elizabeth Hall Witherell, head of the Princeton Edition of Henry Thoreau’s writings, grew up in the same west Toledo neighborhood and were high school sweethearts. They have a daughter, Lily.

“The foundation for my career and life was my extended family in Toledo,” Witherell said. “Their support and the value they put on education and public service were central to my personal and professional development.”

Hossain

Hossain, the graduate ceremony speaker, is a native of Dhaka, Bangladesh, who came to UT as an industrial pharmacist with a passion to develop innovative medicines.

“I’ve always been interested in studying health-related fields due to the suffering of people in my homeland from different types of disease,” Hossain said. “My focus is to develop a specific targeting approach for a more effective cancer vaccine. My research examined the utilization of a natural antibody already present in human serum that makes the vaccine more convenient to target tumor cells.”

He is a candidate for a doctor of philosophy degree in medicinal chemistry in UT’s College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences.

UT’s fall commencement ceremonies will recognize graduates from the colleges of Arts and Letters; Business and Innovation; Judith Herb College of Education; Engineering; Graduate Studies; Health and Human Services; Natural Sciences and Mathematics; Nursing; Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences; and University College.

The College of Law will host its commencement ceremony Sunday, May 5, at 1 p.m. in the Thompson Student Union Auditorium. Later that week — Friday, May 10, at
4 p.m. — the College of Medicine and Life Sciences will hold its commencement ceremony in Savage Arena.

For more information, visit the UT commencement website.

UT scientist studies cannabis to control parasites

Anthropologists have observed that the members of a tribe in Africa’s Congo Basin who regularly smoke marijuana have far fewer intestinal parasites than tribe members who don’t use cannabis.

It was a curious finding that suggested an interesting, if unintentional, example of medical marijuana.

Komuniecki

Now a University of Toledo researcher believes he knows why — and potentially how to harness that knowledge to develop new treatments that could rid humans and livestock of roundworms without relying on traditional anthelmintic drugs.

“Studying how nematodes reacted to cannabis gave us a window into a potential new mode of action,” said Dr. Richard Komuniecki, Distinguished University Professor Emeritus of Biological Sciences at The University of Toledo. “Cannabis really limits locomotion in these animals, and they exhibit a dazed and confused behavior. They can’t decide whether to move forward or backward, which is a druggable phenotype.”

Most anti-parasitic drugs currently on the market to treat intestinal parasites work by causing paralysis in the worms, allowing the body to expel them. It is possible the limited locomotion Komuniecki’s work has observed could be enough to release the worm from the host.

While additional animal testing is needed to confirm the theory, the early findings from Komuniecki and his graduate student researchers, Wenjin Law and Mitchell Oakes, are significant because of their potential to add a new treatment in an area that hasn’t seen much recent development.

“In contrast to things like bacteria where we can develop antibiotics, these animals are so closely related to humans that usually compounds that kill nematodes also kill humans,” Komuniecki said. “Anthelmintic drug discovery has been very slow for that reason. Also, resistance is beginning to arise in a lot of the compounds on the market today.”

For his initial research, Komuniecki introduced cannabinoids to a non-parasitic nematode, or roundworm, known as Caenorhabditis elegans. The tiny worms, which have long been used in scientific research, stopped feeding and exhibited erratic motor function once they were exposed to the compounds.

After studying the worm’s reaction, UT researchers determined they could produce the same reaction by targeting the worms’ serotonin receptors. Komuniecki has worked with Dr. Paul Erhardt, Distinguished University Professor and director of UT’s Center for Drug Design and Development, to identify compounds that could be used as treatment.

“The cannabis work allowed us to identify these receptors as novel drug targets,” Komuniecki said.

More than 2 billion people worldwide are affected by parasites, while the global agricultural industry loses billions of dollars a year to parasitic infections.

Komuniecki’s work on parasitic worms has been continuously funded by the National Institutes of Health for more than 35 years.

UT Leadership Institute 2018-19 class announced

Last year, 21 faculty from across the University participated in the second year of the UT Leadership Institute.

The program was launched in fall 2016 by UT President Sharon L. Gaber and Provost Andrew Hsu to provide professional development to help prepare future academic leaders.

“We started this program to help our fantastic faculty members develop into future academic leaders,” Gaber said. “We believe the UT Leadership Institute accelerates success in higher education administration.”

“For faculty who are interested in exploring leadership opportunities in higher education administration, participation in the UT Leadership Institute is an excellent opportunity,” Hsu said. “Our third cohort of faculty represents faculty from eight colleges and University Libraries. I look forward to the many contributions they will make as emerging leaders of the University.”

Following a competitive application process, a third cohort of 22 faculty members was selected to participate in this year’s UT Leadership Institute. This year’s participants are:

• Dr. Ammon Allred, Philosophy, College of Arts and Letters;

• Dr. Jillian Bornak, Physics, College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics;

• Dr. Lucinda Bouillon, School of Exercise and Rehabilitation Services, College of Health and Human Services;

• Dr. Maria Coleman, Chemical Engineering, College of Engineering;

• Dr. Joan Duggan, Medicine, College of Medicine and Life Sciences;

• Dr. Kevin Egan, Economics, College of Arts and Letters;

• Dr. Michael Ellis, Medicine, College of Medicine and Life Sciences;

• Dr. Rodney Gabel, School of Intervention and Wellness, College of Health and Human Services;

• Dr. David Giovannucci, Neurosciences, College of Medicine and Life Sciences;

• Dr. Lynn Hamer, Foundations of Education, Judith Herb College of Education;

• Dr. Dana Hollie, Accounting, College of Business and Innovation;

• Dr. A. Champa Jayasuriya, Orthopedic Surgery, College of Medicine and Life Sciences;

• Dr. David Kennedy, Medicine, College of Medicine and Life Sciences;

• Dr. Lisa Kovach, Foundations of Education, Judith Herb College of Education;

• Sarah Long, School of Exercise and Rehabilitation Sciences, College of Health and Human Services;

• Julia Martin, University Libraries;

• Amy O’Donnell, Management, College of Business and Innovation;

• Dr. Jorge Ortiz, Surgery, College of Medicine and Life Sciences;

• Dr. Youssef Sari, Pharmacology, College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences;

• Dr. Rebecca Schneider, Curriculum and Instruction, Judith Herb College of Education;

• Dr. Qin Shao, Mathematics, College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics; and

• Dr. Puneet Sindhwani, Urology, College of Medicine and Life Sciences.

The first meeting of this year’s UT Leadership Institute cohort was held Oct. 5 and will be followed by monthly meetings throughout the academic year.

Participants will discuss various aspects of leadership in higher education and engage in discussions with members of the UT leadership team and invited speakers, with presentations focusing on leadership styles, critical issues facing administrators, funding, and diversity and inclusion.

President Sharon L. Gaber, second row standing at right, posed for a photo with most of the members of the 2018-19 class of the UT Leadership Institute during last month.

Nov. 27 deadline to order poinsettias from Satellites

Make the season even more festive: Order a poinsettia from the Satellites Auxiliary.

The poinsettias range in price from $6 to $16 and are available in an array of colors, including red, white, pink, and blue with gold. The plants vary in size from 4.5 inches to 7.5 inches and by the number of blooms.

UT students Andrew Yim and Jessica Shippy checked out some poinsettias at the Satellites Auxiliary’s sale last year in Rocket Hall.

Fresh wreathes measuring 14 inches also are available for $11.

“Every year we do this sale as more of a service for our campuses than as a fundraiser,” Lynn Brand, president of the Satellites, said. “We keep our costs very low, and the small amount of profits benefit our scholarships for the College of Medicine and Life Sciences, the College of Nursing, and the College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences.”

Poinsettia order forms must be received by Tuesday, Nov. 27. Email lynn.brand@utoledo.edu, fax to 419.383.3206, or drop off to Volunteer Services in Dowling Hall Room 75.

Orders will be available for pickup from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Main Campus Monday, Dec. 3, in the Rocket Hall Lobby and on Health Science Campus Tuesday, Dec. 4, in the Four Seasons Bistro Atrium. All poinsettias will be foiled and sleeved.

Payment is due at the time of pickup; options include cash, checks, and payroll deduction on Health Science Campus.

The Satellites Auxiliary is a group designed to promote education, research and service programs; provide support of patient programs in accordance with the needs and approval of administration; conduct fundraising events; and offer volunteer services.

For more information on the annual sale, contact Brand at lynn.brand@utoledo.edu.

UT research discovers link between refined dietary fiber, gut bacteria and liver cancer

Many of the processed foods we find on grocery store shelves have been loaded up with highly refined soluble fibers such as inulin, a popular probiotic that recently received approval from the Food and Drug Administration to be marketed as health-promoting.

But a new study from The University of Toledo’s College of Medicine and Life Sciences is raising serious questions about whether the risks of adding refined fiber to processed foods may significantly outweigh the benefits.

Dr. Vishal Singh, center, a Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation Fellow at the University, recently authored a study published in the journal Cell that found a link between highly refined soluble fibers and liver cancer. He is pictured with fellow researchers Beng San Yeoh, left, a PhD student, and Dr. Matam Vijay-Kumar, director of the UT Microbiome Consortium and associate professor of physiology and pharmacology.

Dr. Matam Vijay-Kumar, director of the UT Microbiome Consortium and associate professor in the UT Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, and his research team recently investigated if a diet enriched with refined inulin might help combat obesity-associated complications in mice.

While the inulin-containing diet did stave off obesity in 40 percent of mice, many of those same mice went on to develop liver cancer at the end of the six-month study.

“The findings shook us,” Vijay-Kumar said, “but at the same time we recognized their potential importance and accepted the challenge of exploring how processed dietary soluble fiber was inducing liver cancer.”

Although this study was performed in mice, it has potential implications for human health. It also suggests, researchers say, that enriching processed foods with refined, fermentable fiber should be approached with great caution.

“We fully appreciate that the fibers present in whole foods like fruits and vegetables are healthy,” Vijay-Kumar said. “Because of that, fortifying or adding purified fiber to processed food sounds logical. However, our results suggest it may in fact be dangerous.”

The findings were published in the Oct. 18 issue of Cell, one of the world’s leading biological journals.

There are two basic types of naturally occurring dietary fiber, soluble and insoluble. Soluble fibers are fermented by gut bacteria into short-chain fatty acids. Insoluble fibers pass through the digestive system unchanged.

While both types are beneficial, the concern raised in the study relates to how gut bacteria break down the highly refined fiber that is added to some processed foods as a dietary supplement.

Dr. Vishal Singh, a Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation Fellow at The University of Toledo and lead author of the paper, said refined fiber is a new addition to our diets and we are in the very early stages of understanding the risks and benefits it may present.

“Soluble fibers added to processed foods are not part of a natural meal,” Singh said. “The inulin used in this study is from chicory root, which is not a food we would normally eat. In addition, during the extraction and processing of the fiber, it goes through a chemical process. We don’t know how the body responds to these processed fibers.”

Chicory root is used as a source of inulin to fortify fiber in processed foods.

The mice that developed liver cancer in this study had altered and elevated gut bacteria, a condition known as dysbiosis. Intriguingly, the researchers observed no evidence of liver cancer in inulin-fed mice that were treated with broad-spectrum antibiotics to deplete gut bacteria.

The UT team collaborated with researchers at Georgia State University who performed a similar study in germ-free mice that completely lack gut bacteria. The absence of liver cancer in those mice further confirmed the contributory role of gut bacteria.

The bacteria collectively known as gut microbiota degrade and digest soluble fibers via fermentation. To inhibit that fermentation process, the UT researchers fed mice beta acids derived from Humulus lupulus — a plant more commonly known for producing the hops that go into beer to prevent spoilage from fermentation.

“Strikingly, feeding beta-acids to inulin-fed mice averted liver cancer, which further reinforce our hypothesis that gut bacterial dysmetabolism primarily driving liver cancer in these mice,” Singh said.

Researchers also found they could halt the development of liver cancer by intervening to replace inulin with the insoluble fiber cellulose.

“Cellulose could not be fermented by gut bacteria present in mice or humans. This finding again highlights the link between bacterial fermentation of soluble fiber and liver cancer development in these mice,” said Beng San Yeoh, a graduate student in Vijay-Kumar’s lab and another lead author of this study.

Researchers said their findings suggest the need for more studies that look at human consumption of the type of refined fiber found in processed foods.

“Our study is going against the conventional wisdom of what people think, that fiber is good, no matter how they get it,” Vijay-Kumar said. “We do not want to promote that fiber is bad. Rather, we highlight that fortifying processed foods with refined soluble fiber may not be safe or advisable to certain individuals with gut bacterial overgrowth or dysbiosis, whose abnormal fermentation of this fiber could increase the susceptibly to liver cancer.”

The study was supported by the National Cancer Institute of the National Institute of Health.

A no-pain gain to combat hypertension: UT research finds way to mimic exercise’s blood pressure lowering effects

Couch potatoes, rejoice: There might be a way to get the blood pressure lowering benefits of exercise in pill form.

Hypertension researchers at The University of Toledo have shown that by increasing the body’s supply of beta hydroxybutyrate, a chemical produced predominantly by the liver, it is possible to regulate high blood pressure without reducing sodium intake or increasing exercise.

Saroj Chakraborty, left, and Dr. Bina Joe have discovered that by increasing the body’s supply of beta hydroxybutyrate, a chemical produced predominantly by the liver, it is possible to regulate high blood pressure without reducing sodium intake or increasing exercise.

“Our team found that high salt consumption lowered levels of circulating beta hydroxybutyrate. When we put beta hydroxybutyrate back in the system, normal blood pressure is restored,” said Dr. Bina Joe, Distinguished University Professor and chair of UT’s Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, and director of the Center for Hypertension and Precision Medicine. “We have an opportunity to control salt-sensitive hypertension without exercising.”

The team’s findings were published in the Oct. 16 issue of the life sciences journal Cell Reports.

Beta hydroxybutyrate is a ketone body produced in the liver from the metabolism of fatty acids. It had not been previously explored as a method for controlling blood pressure, but the UT researchers noted a number of intriguing connections between how the body produces beta hydroxybutyrate and environmental factors known to raise or lower blood pressure.

“As we searched through the literature, we saw beta hydroxybutyrate has been observed increasing with exercise or calorie restriction. Both of those activities also reduce blood pressure. The key piece of our discovery is we now know that beta hydroxybutyrate decreases with salt consumption. This is a novel mechanism by which salt is tied to an increase in blood pressure,” said Saroj Chakraborty, a fourth-year PhD student in the UT Department of Physiology and Pharmacology and the paper’s lead author.

To test its hypothesis, the team led by Chakraborty and Joe developed a study in which they fed lab rats a chemical called 1,3-butanediol.

When that supplement reaches the liver, enzymes convert it to beta hydroxybutyrate. From there, it goes to the kidney, where it was shown to reduce inflammation commonly associated with hypertension — and significantly decrease blood pressure in the process.

“By fixing the kidney, it is indirectly contributing to the lowering of blood pressure. There could be many other organs that it is impacting,” Joe said. “We are studying the heart, blood vessels, brain and other organ systems. But this paper says that this molecule, predominately made in the liver, goes to the kidney, fixes kidney damage, and controls your blood pressure.”

Joe noted that controlling function of the liver to regulate blood pressure is a new concept for researchers.

UT has received a provisional patent on the concept. Researchers in Joe’s lab next want to compare the level of beta hydroxybutyrate in hypertensive patients against those without high blood pressure. Further studies also will determine how much 1,3-butanediol is needed to modulate blood pressure and whether it might cause any potential damage to other organs.

Once the team collects that data, the researchers hope to secure funding for a clinical trial.

While lowering blood pressure without hitting the gym might sound appealing to those averse to breaking a sweat, it also could prove beneficial to those who aren’t able to exercise.

“There are certain patients who are not able to exercise for various reasons. This could prove to be a legitimate alternative for those individuals,” Chakraborty said.

UT faculty recognized for tenure and promotion

Sixty-four University of Toledo faculty members were honored in a special 2018-19 tenure and promotion celebration Sept. 28 in Carlson Library. Last year, 53 faculty members earned tenure and promotion.

Each honoree was asked to select a book that was instrumental to his or her success, and these books — each containing a bookplate commemorating the honoree’s milestone — are now housed in the library.

“We began this tradition when I joined UT because we believe recognizing faculty helps to foster excellence in research and academics, and helps fuel innovation in all fields of study,” said President Sharon L. Gaber.

“Faculty success, together with student success, are two of the highest priorities of the University and of the Office of the Provost,” said Provost Andrew Hsu. “We have implemented a number of new programs to enhance faculty success since President Gaber joined The University of Toledo. And while the large number of faculty honorees this year demonstrates the progress that we have made in faculty success, the credit goes to the hard work and dedication of our faculty.”

UT faculty receiving tenure are Dr. Hossein Elgafy and Dr. Xin Wang, College of Medicine and Life Sciences.

Appointed as professor with tenure are Dr. Anne Balazs, College of Business and Innovation, and Dr. Raymond Witte, Judith Herb College of Education. And appointed as associate professor with tenure is Dr. Denise Bartell, Jesup Scott Honors College.

Faculty members who were promoted to professor are Dr. Tomer Avidor-Reiss, Dr. Maria Diakonova, Dr. Timothy Mueser and Dr. Michael Weintraub, College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics; Dr. Amanda Bryant-Friedrich and Dr. Frederick Williams, College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences; Dr. Florian Feucht and Dr. Tod Shockey, Judith Herb College of Education; Dr. Bashar Gammoh and Dr. Margaret Hopkins, College of Business and Innovation; Dr. Tavis Glassman and Dr. Sheryl Milz, College of Health and Human Services; Dr. Edmund Lingan, Dr. Mysoon Rizk, Dr. Sujata Shetty and Dr. Jami Taylor, College of Arts and Letters; Elizabeth McCuskey and Evan Zoldan, College of Law; Dr. Azedine Medhkour, Dr. Theodor Rais, Dr. Tallat Rizk and Dr. David Sohn, College of Medicine and Life Sciences; and Dr. Devinder Kaur, Dr. Scott Molitor, Dr. Youngwoo Seo, Dr. Gursel Serpen, Dr. Chunhua Sheng, Dr. Sridhar Viamajala and Dr. Hongyan Zhang, College of Engineering.

Promoted to professor with tenure are Dr. Guillermo Vazquez and Dr. Hongyan Li, College of Medicine and Life Sciences.

Faculty members who received tenure and promotion to associate professor include Dr. Wissam AbouAlaiwi, College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences; Dr. Halim Ayan and Dr. Eda Yildirim-Ayan, College of Engineering; Dr. Liat Ben-Moshe, Daniel Hernandez, Dr. Jason Levine, Dr. Thor Mednick and Dr. Daniel Thobias, College of Arts and Letters; Dr. Joseph Cooper and Dr. Kainan Wang, College of Business and Innovation; Dr. Rafael Garcia-Mata, College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics; Dr. Mouhammad Jumaa, Dr. Krishna Reddy and Dr. Diana Shvydka, College of Medicine and Life Sciences; and Dr. Aravindhan Natarajan, College of Health and Human Services.

Faculty promoted to associate professor are Dr. Daniel Gehling, Dr. Claudiu Georgescu, Dr. Bryan Hinch, Dr. Kimberly Jenkins, Dr. Jeremy Laukka, Dr. Terrence Lewis, Dr. Jiayong Liu, Dr. Sumon Nandi and Dr. Syed Zaidi, College of Medicine and Life Sciences; and Dr. Randall Vesely, Judith Herb College of Education.

Faculty who received renewal of their titles with tenure are Michelle Cavalieri and Bryan Lammon, College of Law.

And Dr. George Darah was promoted to clinical associate professor in the College of Medicine and Life Sciences.

“We wish each of these individuals continued success at the University, and ask our campus community to join us in congratulating them,” Hsu said.

Faculty members posed for a photo with President Sharon L. Gaber and Provost Andrew Hsu during the tenure and promotion celebration held last month in Carlson Library.

Two UT faculty members honored by American Chemical Society

Dr. Amanda Bryant-Friedrich and Dr. Paul Erhardt were recognized at the American Chemical Society’s fall national meeting last month in Boston.

Bryant-Friedrich, interim dean of the College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, was named a Fellow of the American Chemical Society, and Erhardt, Distinguished University Professor of Medicinal Chemistry, was inducted into the American Chemical Society Medicinal Chemistry Division Hall of Fame.

Dr. Amanda Bryant-Friedrich, center, posed for a photo with Gurdat Premnauth, UT alumnus who received a master of science degree in chemistry in 2016, left, and Immaculate Sappy, a PhD candidate in the UT Department of Medicinal Chemistry, at the American Chemical Society’s fall national meeting last month in Boston. Bryant-Friedrich was named a Fellow of the American Chemical Society.

The American Chemical Society Fellow designation is awarded to a member who has made exceptional contributions to the science or profession and has provided excellent volunteer service to the community.

Bryant-Friedrich joined the University in 2007 as an associate professor in medicinal and biological chemistry in the College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences. In 2016, she was appointed dean of the College of Graduate Studies, and on Sept. 1, she was named interim dean of the College of Pharmacy. She is vice provost for graduate affairs, professor of medicinal and biological chemistry, and director of the University’s Shimazdu Laboratory for Pharmaceutical Research Excellence.

She received a bachelor of science degree in chemistry at North Carolina Central University, a master’s degree in chemistry from Duke University, and a doctorate in pharmaceutical chemistry from Ruprecht-Karls Universität in Germany. In addition, she conducted postdoctoral studies at the University of Basel in Switzerland.

“After spending several years at an undergraduate-serving institution, I decided that having a larger research focus would allow me to offer more students opportunities,” Bryant-Friedrich said. “The University of Toledo has a research and teaching mission aligned with my interest as well as a globally diverse student body. When offered the opportunity to join this community, I couldn’t say no.”

Her research interests include modified nucleic acids; biomarkers; DNA and RNA damage; photochemistry; mass spectrometry; ionizing radiation; and women in science.

“It is important to me to remain active as a researcher to continue to provide training and research opportunities for students from around the world and right here in northwest Ohio,” said Bryant-Friedrich, one of 12 women named a Fellow this year. “So many questions still remain about the origins of disease, and I hope to continue to contribute to our understanding of the root of diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer’s while searching for new treatments for viral infection.”

Dr. Paul Erhardt, right, received a plaque from Dr. Paul Ornstein, chair of the American Chemical Society Medicinal Chemistry Division, during the Hall of Fame induction ceremony last month in Boston.

Erhardt has been a member of the UT faculty for 25 years. He is director of the Center for Drug Design and Development, which promotes health-related interdisciplinary research programs and facilitates collaborations between the academic and private sectors so useful technologies can be matured and delivered to the marketplace to benefit the public.

He has been a member of the American Chemical Society for nearly 50 years. His early career began in the private sector, first at American Critical Care Labs and then at Berlex Laboratories, where he rose to the rank of assistant director of research and global development. After 20 years, he transitioned to academia and joined The University of Toledo with a desire to share his knowledge and research skills with students.

The American Chemical Society Division of Medical Chemistry Hall of Fame inducts those who have made outstanding contributions to medicinal chemistry through research, teaching and/or division service.

“With regard to the hall of fame award, I am enormously proud as this is the highest acknowledgement that can be bestowed within my chosen field of endeavor,” Erhardt said.

He received a bachelor of arts degree in chemistry and doctorate in medicinal chemistry from the University of Minnesota. He did postdoctoral studies in drug metabolism while at the University of Texas at Austin.

Erhardt is well-known for the pioneering discovery and development of esmolol, a soft drug used in emergency settings that continues to save numerous lives on a daily basis around the globe. He has written more than 125 publications and received more than 50 U.S. patents.

He has been an active member of the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry, where he served as president of Division VII Chemistry and Human Health.

“I plan to retire and assume an emeritus position where I can continue to pursue research,” Erhardt said. “One hobby project that I have never had time for is to establish a human drug metabolism database on the internet akin to the protein database that can be used by all investigators across the globe who are interested in such a topic.”

Breakthrough research at UT shows promise in treating drug-resistant form of deadly breast cancer

A University of Toledo cancer researcher has received nearly $450,000 in grant funding from Susan G. Komen Northwest Ohio to continue his research into triple negative breast cancer, an aggressive form of the disease that frequently develops resistance to existing chemotherapies.

Dr. Amit K. Tiwari, an assistant professor in UT’s College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences who specializes in investigating multidrug resistant cancers, recently identified a new chemotherapy drug that is showing promise in curing triple negative breast cancer, even in cases where patients have developed resistance to conventional chemotherapy.

Tiwari

“Poor prognosis in most triple negative breast cancer cases is due to development of drug resistance. Once patients develop resistance to one chemotherapy, they stop responding to any other chemotherapy. Resistant triple negative breast cancer results in metastasis, diminishing patient survival time to less than a year,” Tiwari said. “These new drugs are unique. Not only are they showing promise in destroying triple negative breast cancer cells, but even if the disease gets to the stage of drug resistance, it is reversing the resistance and making it more sensitive to traditional chemotherapy.”

Triple negative breast cancer accounts for between 15 percent to 20 percent of all breast cancer cases. Treatment is difficult because the cancer does not respond to hormonal therapies or therapies that target HER2 receptors — common methods of treating other breast cancers.

But what makes the disease especially deadly is that the patient often develops resistance to currently available chemotherapy drugs.

“The goal of my research has been to understand why these patients end up getting drug resistance and how we can stop it,” Tiwari said.

His research led him to targeting the cancer cells in a nonconventional way, which has proven both successful in treating the disease and in reversing drug resistance. The new treatment, which has been lab-tested on human breast cancer models, has been provisionally patented by UT.

With the three-year grant from Susan G. Komen Northwest Ohio, Tiwari and his team of researchers at The University of Toledo will be able to continue development and research of the new drugs and move their work closer to clinical trials.

“We are so thankful for the friends, family and neighbors that fight alongside us, helping to reduce the number of breast cancer deaths in Ohio, both on the ground and through research,” said Mary Westphal, executive director of Susan G. Komen Northwest Ohio. “As we celebrate 25 years of impact in northwest Ohio, we are so pleased to be able to award this grant to our partners at The University of Toledo.”

“The University of Toledo is a long-standing partner of Komen Northwest Ohio, receiving funding to support community health programming and advance scientific research for a number of years,” UT Vice President for Research Frank Calzonetti said. “Dr. Tiwari’s efforts to develop new treatments for the most aggressive form of breast cancer is the latest example of how our talented faculty experts are advancing knowledge that impacts our community.”

Triple negative breast cancer patients currently have a poor five-year survival prognosis; however, Tiwari said those who do make it to the five-year mark have a good long-term prognosis. If the new treatment is proven to be as promising as the initial research suggests, Tiwari said it could be a major breakthrough toward curing triple negative breast cancer.

“This actually brings a lot of hope,” Tiwari said.

Opioid epidemic’s impact on older adults topic of upcoming UT, BGSU seminar

The University of Toledo is partnering with Bowling Green State University’s Optimal Aging Institute, the Wood County Committee on Aging and the Area Office on Aging of Northwestern Ohio to hold a town hall discussion on how the opioid crisis is affecting older adults and what the community can do to help.

The program, called Opioid Misuse and Addiction Among Older Adults, will be held Friday, Oct. 5, from 7:15 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Penta Career Center in Perrysburg.

Among the scheduled speakers will be Lance Robertson, assistant secretary for aging at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Opioid abuse is often seen as a problem that only affects young adults, but experts say misuse among older Americans is a real and rapidly growing concern.

“We don’t think of it as much in older adult populations, and it’s probably not as prevalent, but it certainly is a problem that exists and needs to be addressed,” said Dr. Victoria Steiner, associate professor in the UT School of Population Health and assistant director of the Center for Successful Aging.

Overdose incidents among older Americans are rising sharply. Earlier this year, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported the number of emergency room visits for suspected opioid overdoses among those aged 35 to 54 increased by 37 percent. Among those 55 or older, ER visits were up by 32 percent. More than 44 percent of overdose deaths in 2016 occurred in those 45 and older, the CDC reported.

Beyond overdoses, there are other unique concerns related to prescription opioid use in older populations.

“Even if they’re not addicted, opioids can cause problems with breathing, with confusion and with falls in older adults,” Steiner said. “There’s also a risk that somebody else in the family could be diverting their medications.”

Topics to be addressed at the seminar include warning signs that older adults may be suffering from opioid addiction; examples of situations that increase the risk for abuse or addiction; evidence-based pain management in the era of the opioid crisis; and public policy and resources for health-care professionals who work with older adults and their families.

“Older adults are interfacing with so many different health-care professionals and our hope with this Oct. 5 presentation is to bring in all these providers so they receive the same prevention education messages and recognize the importance of assessing opioid use and misuse,” said Dr. Nancy Orel, executive director of research at BGSU’s Optimal Aging Institute and interim chair of the Department of Human Services.

To register for the free, public event, call the Wood County Committee on Aging at 419.353.5661 or email oai@bgsu.edu. The event does not offer continuing medical education credits.